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This article may contain outdated information that is inaccurate for the current version of the game. It was last updated for 2.1.

This article is for the PC version of Stellaris only.

Typical colonization method[edit]

Each species begins with a partially-developed Homeworld. This world is always of the type chosen during Empire creation, and always has 16 or more surface tiles and a hardcoded habitability of 100% for that species. Some of the tiles are blocked by Sprawling Slums and Industrial Wastelands, special Tileblockers that need fewer resources and no technology to remove. In order to expand, the species can build colony ships to send to other habitable worlds after building outposts in the star systems.

Throughout the entire game, only planets with at least 20% habitability, and are within your borders, can be colonized. The primary source of habitability is from the species Habitability trait: Planets of the same type have 80% Habitability, planets within the same Hydrosphere group have 60%, and planets belonging to other groups have 20%. Gaia Worlds, habitats, and Ringworlds always have 100% Habitability for any species. On the flip-side, Tomb Worlds start at 0% habitability for most organic species. However, there is a Rare Society tech which gives +20% habitability to Tomb Worlds.

Habitability affects organic life in the following ways:

  • For non-Auth hive mind.png Hive Mind species, low Habitability causes decreased Happiness, since happiness of a pop is decreased depending on its habitability on a certain planet.
  • For all organic life, low Habitability decreases the resource output of all worked tiles and decreases the speed at which new Pops grow The rate is always -2.5% for every 10% Habitability.

Typically, in order to colonize other planet types, you must do one of these things:

  1. Terraform the planet to a more habitable type.
  2. Increase the diversity of your empire to include a species that can colonize other planet types. If you conquered primitives, you need to wait for culture shock to wear off.
  3. Complete the research items that increase the species' habitability empire-wide. (i.e. Hostile Environment Adaption, Foreign Soil Enrichment, etc.).
  4. Use Droid or Synthetic pops as initial colonists.

Colonization through diversity[edit]

It is possible to colonize planets of radically different environments without terraforming or genetic engineering. Stellaris provides several methods by which you can mold a species to better fit its environment, rather than molding the environment to fit the species. You should be aware that these methods are typically disliked by most imperial species. The methods are:

Using other species from other empires[edit]

This approach may work if you have few different organic species in your empire and they have different planetary preferences. If your main species hates deserts, but you have some citizens of a desert loving species, you can send them to colonize a desert planet. Of course, you will need to be careful with this process, as they may have very different ethics from your goverment ethics, or they may come to generally dislike you. You don't want them to turn into separatists as soon as they claim the new faraway planet. The best way to do this, is using Uplifted pre-sentient species. They are usually loyal to the empire that brought them to the sentience and may have unique genetic traits making them capable of inhabiting extreme environments. Some of them even have traits enabling them to easily inhabit irradiated Tomb Worlds.

Using Droids or Synthetics[edit]

You can put a Droid or Synthetic pop on a colony ship and send it to colonize any planet, even with 0% habitability, because robotic citizens always have 100% habitability on all planets. However, robots don't reproduce. This means that unless you actively manage the colonization, once the colony appears on the planetary surface, the planet will never have more than the one initial pop. You can avoid this by ordering more robotic pops to be built, or resettling or migrating organic pops. Some drawbacks to this approach are that Droids get a big penalty to Research tile yields (and smaller for Energy), though Synthetics are free of such limitations.

Colonizing with droids or synthetics is a good way to gain control of planets with pre-sentient species for uplifting, if your own species does not have the ability to colonize those planets.

Genetically re-engineering your main species[edit]

This is possible once you have researched Social Technology of Gene Tailoring. Both deliberately and via the Environmental Adaptation event. See Genetic engineering for details. Note that you cannot genetically engineer a species to suit a Tomb World environment.

Choosing systems to build outposts[edit]

Planets differ mainly by habitability and size and which of these two should be your primary focus depends on the Empire you are planing on playing. Habitability is important if you are going for a high happiness build (as lower habitability gives a happiness penalty) or if you want rapid population growth (to work a lot of tiles quickly). Size in turn is very important for Research, as there is a penalty to research cost based on number of planets and systems under the empire's control. As such, 2 size 12 planets are significantly worse than 1 size 24 planet. Having a large number of planets (regardless of habitability and sizes) can be useful for gathering minerals and energy credits to fuel fleets.

Other things worth considering:

  1. Tile resources - Planets have base resources randomly distributed across their tiles. Each tile may contain 0-4 units of one of following yields: food, energy, minerals, one of three types of research, or mix of minerals/food or minerals/energy. You should focus on colonizing planets with yields most needed by your empire in the short term, or long term.
  2. Planetary modifiers - There are over 20 planetary modifiers for some planets, visible as big circles on top of planetary surface screen. They impact yields (for example "Mineral rich" increases extracted mineral yields by 25%) or population in positive or negative way. Some of them are fairly minor, but others have a huge impact.
  3. Tile blockers - Almost all uninhabited planets have some tile blockers. Tile blockers are "natural obstacles" randomly generated on tiles and preventing them from being colonized, developed and exploited. They vary from toxic swamps to volcanoes, and each tile blocker type has a corresponding technology which can be used to clear it - for a cost in minerals and energy. In the early game, when you have neither proper technology nor resources enabling you to remove tile blockers, you should avoid colonizing planets very densely covered in them, as you won't be able to properly develop them for a long time. However, by mid to late game, tile blockers become more and more insignificant obstacles and you shouldn't worry about them.
  4. Special tiles - Some planets have very rare special tiles which may be extremely useful to use - those can be ancient obelisks or abandoned mysterious factories. Your pops can operate them, so planets with them may be worth colonizing. On the other hand, some of them may be dangerous.
  5. Political location of a planet - If you build outposts in systems too close to alien empires, they may be very distressed of you suddenly expanding your imperial borders close to them, and declare you a rival or even declare a war. There is a negative "Border friction" modifier in diplomacy when two empires aggressively expand near each other. You should be very careful about colonizing planets near to Fallen Empires borders, especially if they are Xenophobic - and keep an eye out for Gaia Worlds marked by the Holy Guardians, as well. That said, sometimes proximity is a benefit rather than a drawback: one can easily "hem in" an empire to cut off their expansion.

Later in the game, choosing what planet to colonize isn't that big of a challenge as you will presumably have enough spare resources and technology to cope with any natural obstacles and shortages. However, early game prioritization of good planets is very important. Consider these three potential colony planets:

  1. A large planet with 3/4 of the surface covered in tile blockers.
  2. A planet possesses an irradiated modifier which makes pops grow very slowly and unhappily.
  3. A modestly sized planet that also has decent resources and tiles mostly free from obstacles.

Under these circumstances, you should consider colonizing number 3. However, the right choice isn't always that obvious.

Colony ship[edit]

To colonize a planet, you need to send a colony ship after building an outpost in the system. They can be built at an empire's homeworld from the start of the game; once a colony has been established (past the -8 energy credits/mth phase), it can also create colony ships.

Colony ships cost a base of 300 minerals, modified by happiness modifiers, and take a year to build. While ordering its construction, you have to choose what pops of a planet constructing it will become colonists. This pop will not be "removed" from the surface of an origin planet. On board the colony ship, you can put pops of your main species, other species inhabiting your empire, or advanced robots (precisely, Droids or Synthetics - early Robots cannot colonize planets as they are not sentient at all).

Once the Colony Ship is constructed, it costs 8 energy credits to maintain each month - thus you should quickly send it to colonize some planet and not waste your income.

When you click on the existing Colony ships, go to the Galaxy View. You may notice colorful globe icons displaying above systems. A green globe means there is a colonizable planet of high habitability in that system, yellow means there is a colonizable planet but it has medium habitability, red means low habitability planets, usually under the Colonization threshold.

To colonize a planet, select the colonization ship, right click on the planet you want to settle, and choose Colonize Planet. You will be prompted to choose where your colony ship will make planetfall.

Colony development[edit]

Pre 2.2 Le Guin[edit]

Placing the capital building[edit]

When you colonize a planet, you will choose which planet tile will be used as your planetfall location. This will serve as the Planetary Administration for your new colony. Here you need to face your first dilemma. Generally there are two factors you need to consider while placing the initial colony:

  1. Energy - The capital of a planet produces energy and unity . As such, placing the Ship Shelter on a tile with energy is ideal; if this isn't feasible, it's best to place it on a tile with no resources, as opposed to one that produces food, minerals, or research (otherwise, they'll be suppressed).
  2. Adjacency bonuses - in the future you will be able to upgrade your colony to the Administration Center, which will convey adjacency bonuses (food, energy, or minerals, but not research or unity) to its four neighboring tiles, once developed. So it may be worth to place a colony on a tile either not on the 'edge' of a planetary surface (where it has a limited number of adjacent tiles) or on a tile which has neighboring tiles rich in these yields. This is a long-term bonus; it will make this planet produce more yields in the future.

When a Colony Ship is instructed to colonize a world, you must select a surface tile as the starting location for your colony. The Colony Ship will land on this tile and convert into a Reassembled Ship Shelter, which acts as the new planet's capital building and can be upgraded as the population grows. When choosing the tile to which you will send your Colony Ship, you should consider the adjacency effect of the capital building. The adjacency effect will increase the food, mineral and energy production of the directly adjacent tiles if there is a proper production building on said tile. This includes the tiles directly above and below, left and right, but not diagonally.

Therefore, your preference should be to place the capital building next to which naturally produce some Food, Minerals or Energy. The next most preferable tiles are empty tiles, and the least preferable are Research tiles.

Note that you can relocate the Reassembled Ship Shelter for free at any time before upgrading it to a Planetary Administration (Though it will take Approx. 180 days). This can be useful if the best location is initially blocked by a tile blocker, or if you greedily pick a planetfall tile for its energy yield rather than its adjacency bonuses.

Colonization in progress[edit]

After you choose a starting tile for the colony, the Colony Ship will enter orbit around the planet and land on the selected tile. A period of initial development will then occur. This is initially one year, but can be reduced empire-wide by researching the appropriate technologies:

  • AI-Controlled Colony Ships.
  • Self-Aware Colony Ships.
  • Frontier Collectives.
  • Frontier Commissars.

While the colony is being established, it is extremely vulnerable: just a few days of orbital bombardment will wipe it out completely.

During this period the new colony does not produce anything, and consumes Energy Credits.png Energy credits from your empire. Once the colony has been successfully established, a Pop will appear on the capital tile, and a Growing Pop on one other tile. You can then begin to develop the planet by constructing Buildings, clearing Tile blockers, and moving Pops.

Growing the colony[edit]

Your new planet will take time to settle. While the colony is establishing itself it will be a steady drain on your economy (-8, the same monthly energy cost as the colony ship). Once the colony is established, this economic anchor will end and the planet will be a part of your core system (unless the colony was founded in a system belonging to a Sector - then it will go under sector's autonomic governance).

Colonized worlds will have your Core Sector governor governing them. Depending on their bonuses, the governor will give different benefits to the planets they have been assigned to manage. Systems containing colonized worlds can also be assigned to Sectors, which will manage most aspects of their development and contribute all generated Research, plus a set percentage of Minerals and Energy Credits generated, back to your empire.

In the beginning, a colony has only one pop working in one building, the Reassembled Ship Shelter. It is a temporary shelter and you can't build many advanced or regular buildings unless you have a proper Administration building. However, Administration requires the planet to have 5 population units.

There are few ways to quickly increase the population of a new colony to 5:

  1. Maintain an empire-wide food surplus
  2. Build a Frontier Clinic building (+2 society, -5% growth time)
  3. Force resettlement, if your policies allow
  4. Build robots - they count towards required 5 population units, and grow independently from organic pops, effectively doubling growth

Once you finally hit 5 population units, you may upgrade the ship shelter to an Administration Center, at that point the planet is finally "civilized". Well, you may also need to remove its tile blockers.


Game concepts
Governance CrimeEmpireEthicsGovernmentPoliciesEdictsLeaderFactionsPopulationSpecies rightsTraditions
Exploration ExplorationMapSpeciesAnomalyEventsFTLFallen empirePre-FTL speciesSpaceborne aliens
Colonization ColonizationCelestial bodyPlanetary managementEconomyTechnologyConstructionStarbaseShip
Diplomacy DiplomacyTradeSubject empireFederationsAI personalities
Warfare WarfareSpace warfareLand warfareShip designer
Others TraitsTerraformingPop modificationSlaveryCrisisPreset empiresAI playersEaster eggs