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Typical colonization method[edit]

Each species begins with a partially-developed Homeworld. This world is always of that species preferred type, and always has 16 surface tiles, of which some are blocked by Sprawling Slums and Industrial Wastelands. In order to expand, the species can build colony ships to send to other habitable worlds. At the start of the game, only planets of your preferred type are eligible for colonization. Typically, in order to colonize other planet types you must do one of three things:

  1. Terraform the planet to a more habitable type.
  2. Increase the diversity in your empire to include a species than can colonize other planet types.
  3. Complete the research item that unlocks that world type for your species. These research items will appear under the Society tab.

Colonization through diversity[edit]

It is possible to colonize planets of radically different environments without terraforming or researching the appropriate society types. Stellaris provides several methods by which you can mold a species to better fit it's 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 of an empire[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 ethos from the imperial one, 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 building 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.

Genetically re-engineering your main species[edit]

This is possible once you have researched Social Technology of Gene Tailoring. Simply send colonists to some terribly uninhabitable planet, then open the Empire Species tab, click on the Modify button and select the appropriate planet. After some time, pops inhabiting that planet will be genetically modified to a version with a different planetary preference trait. You can then use those modified pops to colonize different planets of that type. The drawback here is that this can generate conflicts between the 'modified' and "pure" populations of your main species.

Progressive species modification[edit]

You might want to gradually adapt a species into several subspecies which each prefer a different planet type, rather than force an entire population to adapt quickly to extreme conditions; i.e. moving a pop from an 80% habitable planet to a 20% habitable planet. You would do this in several steps

  1. Colonize a Tropical Planet with Continental Preference beings
  2. Modify the new inhabitants for Tropical Preference.
  3. Colonize the Desert planet with the Tropical Preference subspecies.
  4. Modify the inhabitants of the Desert planet for a Desert Preference.

Continue to repeat these steps as many times as is desired or needed to allow your main species to all necessary planet types.

This is obviously a very time consuming and arduous approach to colonization, but it is possible and may even be desirable under some circumstances.

Enslave the settlers when they get there.[edit]

While extremely low habitability causes pops to be permanently unhappy, enslaved pops will not attempt to revolt. However, this doesn't make 0% habitability planets habitable.

Colony Ships[edit]

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. This includes the tiles directly above and below, left and right, but not diagonally.

Note: Adjacency has no effect on the output of science buildings.

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.

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.

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.

Colonized worlds can have a governor assigned to them. Depending on their bonuses, the governor will give different benefits to the planet 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.

Choosing worlds to colonize[edit]

Planets differ mainly by type and habitability, and high habitability should be your main priority, but when you have few planets possible for colonization (which are all of the proper type), there are other factors influencing their perceived value. After surveying the planet you can see its surface and they are all visible prior to you colonizing them, so you can estimate their value.

  1. Tile resources - planets have base resources randomly distributed across their tiles. Each tile may contain 0-3 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. Planet size - planets vary in size, or to be more exact, number of surface tiles. Smallest planets may consist of barely 8 tiles while biggest have 25 of them. Generally the bigger a planet is, the better, as more tiles means more pops, buildings, yields and benefits for the empire. Thus, you should try to colonize bigger planets if they don't have serious drawbacks (or if small planets do not have some exceptionable qualities). Also, note that 10 tiles is the minimum size for a planetary capital to be built, which allows you to build higher-tier buildings.
  4. 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 or 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.
  5. 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...
  6. System and neighboring systems of a colonizable planet - when you colonize the planet, it generates borders which slowly increase in radius as the population grows. This means that you can exploit resources of the system it is located in - and, if they are close enough, resources of neighboring systems. Sometimes, it is worth to colonize a 'mediocre' planet just to expand the borders and grab very rich resources of a few systems at once.
  7. Political location of a planet - On the other hand, you have to be careful - if you colonize 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 tension" modifier in diplomacy when two empires agressively expand near each other. You should be very careful about colonizing planets near to the Fallen Empires borders, especially if they are Xenophobic. And don't even try of colonizing those great Gaia worlds with mysterious names close to Spiritualist Fallen Empires...

Later in the game, choosing what planet should you 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...

Unlocking new world types[edit]


Starting off, it is possible to colonize a few planet types. To increase the amount of planet types that can be colonized, research is needed. For example, consider the Tundra Colonization research.

Before completing the Tundra Colonization research, it is impossible to colonize the planet, as displayed in the image below under 'before'. When the research is complete, it is possible to colonize the planet, as is displayed in the image below under 'After'.


The message in the image under 'before' (does NOT have Tundra Colonization) refers to the research that is missing. Like Tundra, there are other planet types that have to be unlocked through research before they can be colonized.

Colony ship[edit]

To colonize a planet, you need to send a colony ship - these units are unlocked by the social technology New Worlds Protocol. It is usually earliest or one of the earliest possible technologies to research from Social category, but don't panic if you don't get it for a while - it is heavily weighed to appear in the first decade or, at worst, two.

Colony ships cost 350 minerals and take almost a year to build. While ordering its construction, you have to choose what pops of a planet constructing it will be colonists. This pop will not be "removed" from the surface of an origin planet. On board of the colony ship you can put pops of your main species of various ethics, other species inhabiting your empire, or advanced robots (precisely, Droids or Synthetics - early Robots cannot colonize planets as they are not sentient at all). Remember: if you colonize the planet with pops of ethics radically different from your "mainstream empire" ethos, or from minority race disliking your empire, there is a risk they may try to declare independence in the future.

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. However Colony Ships are defenseless and should never be sent into hostile or unsecure territory. Either send them to safe, charted space (you need to survey planet to be able to colonize it anyway) or escort them with your military starships.

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 either medium habitability or you don't have a tech to colonize it yet, red means low habitability planets.

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.

A more advanced colonization technology (which is available to individualists only) will allow you to build Private Colony Ships. These are slightly cheaper than ordinary colony ships, but you cannot choose which population unit will be sent on the mission. You can however still indirectly control the pop that they will use by constructing them on planets without ethical diverged pops (or consisting wholly of the same type of diverged pop).

Colony development[edit]

As noted above, 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. Food - if you place colony on the tile with food resource, it will start being extracted and added to the base food (2) of a newly colonized planet, which will make its early development significantly faster. This is short-term bonus significant for quicker development of a colony.
  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, minerals) to its four neighboring tiles. So it may be worth to place colony on a tile either not on the 'edge' of a planetary surface (where it has limited number of adjacent tiles) or on a tile which has neighboring tiles rich in these yields. This is long-term bonus, it will make this planet produce more yields in the future.
Relocating your Capital building[edit]

Sometimes the most ideal planet tiles to settle on will be unavailable to you when first colonizing a planet, most often because of tile blockers. It is, however, possible to relocate your Reassembled Ship Shelter for free by demolishing the existing one and rebuilding it on another tile. This process takes up to 6 months, however, so it might be a good idea to secure your pops another food source before relocating the Shelter. Alternatively, when the time comes to upgrading to the Planetary Assembly, you can in a similar fashion destroy the Reassembled Ship Shelter for so to construct the Planetary Assembly wherever you prefer. Given sufficient technology, you can this way make sure your Capital building is located at the best spot possible.

Your new planet will take time to settle. While the colony is establishing itself it will be a steady drain on your economy (-8 energy credits per month). 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).

In the beginning, colony has no spaceport, and only one pop working in one building, Reassembled Ship Shelter. It is 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. Early focus of the colony should be developing population until it reaches 5, but this can take a while as you can't build farms better than "primitive" (mere +1 tile food), or resettle population to the planet without Administration.

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

  1. Simplest - place first pops of the colony on tiles producing highest base Food output, and build a Frontier Clinic building (+2 food, +5% habitability)
  2. Spend influence on edicts increasing Food production on the planet
  3. If you have huge mineral surplus you may build spaceport and a module Orbital Hydroponic Gardens (+3 food for the planet)
  4. If you have big energy surplus you may start building robots on the surface - 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 ship shelter to Administration Center, at that point the planet is finally "civilised". Well, you may also need to remove its tile blockers.


Game concepts
Governance EmpireGovernment typesPoliciesEdictsLeaderFactionsPopulation
Exploration ExplorationMapSpeciesAnomalyEventsFTLFallen empirePre-FTL speciesSpaceborne aliens
Colonization ColonizationCelestial bodyEconomyBuildingsTechnologyConstructionSpaceportFleet
Diplomacy DiplomacyTradeSubject empireAlliances and federationsAI personalities
Warfare WarfareSpace warfareLand warfareOrbital bombardmentMilitary stationShip designer
Others EthosTraitsTerraformingGenetic modificationSlaveryCrisisPreset empiresEaster eggs