Flooding of the terminal floodplains of northern Australian rivers provides a greatly expanded, productive habitat accessed by both freshwater and estuarine fishes. This study aimed to determine the extent to which sea catfishes (Ariidae) make use of floodplains and the reasons for doing so (i.e. spawning, feeding). Nine species were collected from floodplains and adjacent distributaries of the Mitchell and Flinders rivers; floodplain use was largely restricted to freshwater species. Evidence of prior wet season spawning was recorded for some species, and mesenteric lipid deposits indicated that fish were in good condition. However, little evidence of spawning on floodplains was found. Stomach content analysis and stable isotope analysis indicated dietary partitioning, particularly between freshwater and estuarine species, but also within freshwater species, and indicated that some species were responsive to variations in food availability. Isotope analyses suggest extensive movement between freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats at different life history stages for the catfish assemblage studied. Terminal floodplains of northern Australian rivers provide important temporary habitat for adult sea catfishes to feed upon, but do not appear to be used as spawning grounds.