The extraordinary species richness of freshwater fishes has attracted much research on mechanisms and modes of speciation. We here review research on speciation in freshwater fishes in light of speciation theory, and place this in a context of broad-scale diversity patterns in freshwater fishes. We discuss several major repeated themes in freshwater fish speciation and the speciation mechanisms they are frequently associated with. These include transitions between marine and freshwater habitats, transitions between discrete freshwater habitats, and ecological transitions within habitats, as well as speciation without distinct niche shifts. Major research directions in the years to come include understanding the transition from extrinsic environment-dependent to intrinsic reproductive isolation and its influences on species persistence and understanding the extrinsic and intrinsic constraints to speciation and how these relate to broad-scale diversification patterns through time.