Within the world’s oceans, regionally distinct ecological niches develop due to differences in water temperature, nutrients, food availability, predation and light intensity. This results in differences in the vertical dispersion of planktonic foraminifera on the global scale. Understanding the controls on these modern-day distributions is important when using these organisms for paleoceanographic reconstructions. As such, this study constrains modern depth habitats for the northern equatorial Indian Ocean, for 14 planktonic foraminiferal species (G. ruber, G. elongatus, G. pyramidalis, G. rubescens, T. sacculifer, G. siphonifera, G. glutinata, N. dutertrei, G. bulloides, G. ungulata, P. obliquiloculata, G. menardii, G. hexagonus, G. scitula) using stable isotopic signatures (δ18O and δ13C) and Mg/Ca ratios. We evaluate two aspects of inferred depth habitats: (1) the significance of the apparent calcification depth (ACD) calculation method/equations and (2) regional species-specific ACD controls. Through a comparison with five global, (sub)tropical studies we found the choice of applied equation and δ18Osw significant and an important consideration when comparing with the published literature. The ACDs of the surface mixed layer and thermocline species show a tight clustering between 73–109 m water depth coinciding with the deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM). Furthermore, the ACDs for the sub-thermocline species are positioned relative to secondary peaks in the local primary production. We surmise that food source plays a key role in the relative living depths for the majority of the investigated planktonic foraminifera within this oligotrophic environment of the Maldives and elsewhere in the tropical oceans.