New bacterial detection and imaging methods are desirable for diagnostics and healthcare applications, as well as in basic scientific research. We present a simple analytical platform for bacterial detection and imaging based upon attachment of amphiphilic carbon dots (CDs) to bacterial cells. We show that CDs functionalized with hydrocarbon chains readily bind to bacterial cells following short incubation and enable detection of bacteria through both fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy. Importantly, we demonstrate that the intensity and spectral position of the carbon dots' fluorescence depend upon bacterial species, providing a tool for distinguishing among bacteria even in cases of mixed bacterial populations. Moreover, bacterial labelling with the amphiphilic CDs enables visualization of physiological processes such as cell division.