This review examines the contribution of research on fishes to the growing field of behavioural syndromes. Current knowledge of behavioural syndromes in fishes is reviewed with respect to five main axes of animal personality: (1) shyness–boldness, (2) exploration–avoidance, (3) activity, (4) aggressiveness and (5) sociability. Compared with other taxa, research on fishes has played a leading role in describing the shy–bold personality axis and has made innovative contributions to the study of the sociability dimension by incorporating social network theory. Fishes are virtually the only major taxon in which behavioural correlations have been compared between populations. This research has guided the field in examining how variation in selection regime may shape personality. Recent research on fishes has also made important strides in understanding genetic and neuroendocrine bases for behavioural syndromes using approaches involving artificial selection, genetic mapping, candidate gene and functional genomics. This work has illustrated consistent individual variation in highly complex neuroendocrine and gene expression pathways. In contrast, relatively little work on fishes has examined the ontogenetic stability of behavioural syndromes or their fitness consequences. Finally, adopting a behavioural syndrome framework in fisheries management issues including artificial propagation, habitat restoration and invasive species, may promote restoration success. Few studies, however, have examined the ecological relevance of behavioural syndromes in the field. Knowledge of how behavioural syndromes play out in the wild will be crucial to incorporating such a framework into management practices.