The fish communities of lagoons in the Nhecolândia Pantanal were studied to determine the factors which are responsible for the composition and abundance of species. Fishes were collected in 19 lagoons during August 1997, after their isolation from the River Negro, using beach seines (15 × 1.5 m; 2 mm mesh). A total of 51 species were collected. In the lagoons, or in parts with dense macrophytes, a screened box trap was used. Fishing was also accomplished with hooks of several sizes. Species richness was estimated by the jack-knife procedure, after adjustment to the log-normal distribution and with von Bertalanffy’s equation (asymptotic). The most important factors in the community organization were macrophyte cover, piscivore abundance and depth of the lagoons. The role of these habitats in the Pantanal ecosystem was discussed.