Iron is an essential micronutrient for all forms of life; low levels of iron cause human disease, while too much iron is toxic. Low iron levels induce reactive oxygen species (ROS) by disruption of the heme and iron-sulfur cluster-dependent electron transport chain (ETC). To identify bacterial metabolites that affect development, we screened the Keio Escherichia coli collection and uncovered 244 gene deletion mutants that slow Caenorhabditis elegans development. Several of these genes encode members of the ETC cytochrome bo oxidase complex, as well as iron importers. Surprisingly, either iron or anti-oxidant supplementation reversed the developmental delay. This suggests that low bacterial iron results in high bacterial ROS and vice versa, which causes oxidative stress in C. elegans that subsequently impairs mitochondrial function and delays development. Our data indicate that the bacterial diets of C. elegans provide precisely tailored amounts of iron to support proper development.