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To investigate Brazilian freshwater ichthyology, from 1986 to 2005, a bibliometric analysis was conducted using abstracts downloaded from The Web of Science database searching for the keywords ‘fish’, ‘pisces’, ‘teleostei’ and the address field having the word ‘Brazil’. The results of this study showed that Brazilian freshwater ichthyology publications have been increasing during the study period. This process is a consequence of a series of investments that the Brazilian Government has made. Furthermore, data analyses identified scientific areas where there was a lack of scientific knowledge (e.g. studies of species threatened with extinction and certain hydrologic basins). Research institutions from the north-east and northern region of Brazil had the lowest participation in scientific productivity, which was a reflection of their regions poorer economic situation. This study showed that scientific productivity in Brazilian ichthyology was a direct reflection of state investment in research. Furthermore, data in this study follow expected statistical probabilities, for example, fishes from the most diverse families were the most studied. Thus, the study shows that great progress has been made by Brazilian ichthyologists in the last 20 years; however, due to the mega diversity of fishes in Brazil, much remains to be done if many species are to become known to science and to be saved from extinction. This it seems will depend on continued and further investment by Brazilian Government funding agencies, as Brazilian ichthyologists have demonstrated their capacity to generate high quality information about their study species.