Free living nematodes (FLN) are microscopic worms found in all soils. While many FLN species are beneficial to crops, some species cause significant damage by feeding on roots and vectoring viruses. With the planned legislative removal of traditionally used chemical treatments, identification of new ways to manage FLN populations has become a high priority. For this, more powerful screening systems are required to rapidly assess threats to crops and identify treatments efficiently. Here, we have developed new live assays for testing nematode responses to treatment by combining transparent soil microcosms, a new light sheet imaging technique termed Biospeckle Selective Plane Illumination Microscopy (BSPIM) for fast nematode detection, and Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy for high resolution imaging. We show that BSPIM increased signal to noise ratios by up to 60 fold and allowed the automatic detection of FLN in transparent soil samples of 1.5 mL. Growing plant root systems were rapidly scanned for nematode abundance and activity, and FLN feeding behaviour and responses to chemical compounds observed in soil-like conditions. This approach could be used for direct monitoring of FLN activity either to develop new compounds that target economically damaging herbivorous nematodes or ensuring that beneficial species are not negatively impacted.