How Deep Do Corals Live?

When you think of corals, you may immediately think of shallow water reefs. These coral can live just a couple of inches from the surface down to 100 feet (30 meters). They prefer warm water along coastlines.

Mesophotic coral reefs are found primarily in tropical and subtropical regions. They occur from about 100 feet to 500 feet (30 – 150 meters). This area is unique because both light-dependent coral and deep-water coral can live in this zone. Until the past decade, these ecosystems were barely studied. Most of them occur too deep for regular SCUBA diving (130 feet/40 meters) and are too shallow for deep-water remotely operated vehicles and submersibles. These reefs are now considered extensions of shallow water reefs and could be a source to renew shallow water coral species in the future.

Deep-sea corals, also called cold-water corals, can live between 150 feet and 10,000 feet (45 meters – 3,000 meters). These corals are found worldwide, from pole to pole.

This coral was observed in the mesophotic ecosystem of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Image by GFOE.