Rainbowfishes (Melanotaeniidae) are the largest monophyletic group of freshwater fishes occurring in Australia and New Guinea, with 112 species currently recognised. Despite their high taxonomic diversity, rainbowfishes remain poorly studied from a cytogenetic perspective. Using conventional (Giemsa staining, C banding, chromomycin A3 staining) and molecular (fluorescence in situ hybridisation with ribosomal DNA (rDNA) and telomeric probes) cytogenetic protocols, karyotypes and associated chromosomal characteristics of five species were examined. We covered all major lineages of this group, namely, Running River rainbowfish Melanotaenia sp., red rainbowfish Glossolepis incisus, threadfin rainbowfish Iriatherina werneri, ornate rainbowfish Rhadinocentrus ornatus, and Cairns rainbowfish Cairnsichthys rhombosomoides. All species had conserved diploid chromosome numbers 2n = 48, but karyotypes differed among species; while Melanotaenia sp., G. incisus, and I. werneri possessed karyotypes composed of exclusively subtelo/acrocentric chromosomes, the karyotype of R. ornatus displayed six pairs of submetacentric and 18 pairs of subtelo/acrocentric chromosomes, while C. rhombosomoides possessed a karyotype composed of four pairs of submetacentric and 20 pairs of subtelo/acrocentric chromosomes. No heteromorphic sex chromosomes were detected using conventional cytogenetic techniques. Our data indicate a conserved 2n in Melanotaeniidae, but morphologically variable karyotypes, rDNA sites, and heterochromatin distributions. Differences were observed especially in taxonomically divergent species, suggesting interspecies chromosome rearrangements.