Abstract Cold-water coral (CWC) ecosystems are hotspots of macro- and microfaunal biodiversity and provide refuge for a wide variety of deep-sea species. We investigated how the abundance and biodiversity of ‘live’ (Rose Bengal stained) foraminifera varies with, and is related to, the occurrence of CWC on the Rockall Bank (NE Atlantic). Qualitative and quantitative analyses were performed on 21 replicate samples from 8 deep-sea stations, including 4 stations on CWC-covered carbonate mounds at depths of 567–657 m, and 4 stations on the adjacent slope at depths of 469–1958 m where CWC were absent. This sampling strategy enabled us to demonstrate that sediments surrounding the living CWC were characterised by higher foraminiferal abundance and biodiversity than open-slope sediments from the same area. A total of 163 foraminiferal species was identified. The dominant species in CWC sediments were: Spirillina vivipara, Allogromiid sp. 1, Globocassidulina subglobosa, Adercotryma wrighti, Eponides pusillus, Ehrenbergina carinata, Planulina ariminensis, Trochammina inflata and Paratrochammina challengeri. Foraminifera were nearly absent in adjacent open slope areas subject to strong tidal currents and characterised by coarse grained deposits. We suggest that CWC create a heterogeneous three-dimensional substrate offering microhabitats to a diverse benthic foraminiferal community.