Oceanographers divide the ocean into regions depending on physical and biological conditions of these areas. The pelagic zone includes all open ocean regions, and can be divided into further regions categorized by depth and light abundance. The photic zone covers the oceans from surface level to 200 metres down. This is the region where photosynthesis can occur and therefore is the most biodiverse. Since plants require photosynthesis, life found deeper than this must either rely on material sinking from above (see marine snow) or find another energy source; hydrothermal vents are the primary option in what is known as the aphotic zone (depths exceeding 200 m). The pelagic part of the photic zone is known as the epipelagic. The pelagic part of the aphotic zone can be further divided into regions that succeed each other vertically according to temperature.
The mesopelagic is the uppermost region. Its lowermost boundary is at a thermocline of 12 °C (54 °F), which, in the tropics generally lies at 700–1,000 metres (2,300–3,300 ft). Next is the bathypelagic lying between 10-4 °C (43 °F), typically between 700–1,000 metres (2,300–3,300 ft) and 2,000–4,000 metres (6,600–13,000 ft) Lying along the top of the abyssal plain is the abyssalpelagic, whose lower boundary lies at about 6,000 metres (20,000 ft). The last zone includes the deep trenches, and is known as the hadalpelagic. This lies between 6,000–11,000 metres (20,000–36,000 ft) and is the deepest oceanic zone.
Along with pelagic aphotic zones there are also benthic aphotic zones. These correspond to the three deepest zones of the deep-sea. The bathyal zone covers the continental slope down to about 4,000 metres (13,000 ft). The abyssal zone covers the abyssal plains between 4,000 and 6,000 m. Lastly, the hadal zone corresponds to the hadalpelagic zone which is found in the oceanic trenches.
The pelagic zone can also be split into two subregions, the neritic zone and the oceanic zone. The neritic encompasses the water mass directly above the continental shelves, while the oceanic zone includes all the completely open water. In contrast, the littoral zone covers the region between low and high tide and represents the transitional area between marine and terrestrial conditions. It is also known as the intertidal zone because it is the area where tide level affects the conditions of the region.