Flathead gobies (genus Glossogobius) include c. 40 small- to medium-sized benthic fishes found primarily in freshwater habitats across the Indo-Pacific, having biodiversity value as well as cultural and economic value as food fishes, especially in developing countries. To help resolve considerable confusion regarding the identification of some of the larger-growing Glossogobius species, a systematic framework was established using nuclear genetic markers, mitochondrial DNA barcoding and phenotypic evidence for a geographically widespread collection of individuals from the waterways of tropical northern Australia. Species boundaries and distribution patterns were discordant with those previously reported, most notably for the tank goby Glossogobius giuris, which included a cryptic species. Genetic divergence was matched with accompanying unique visual characters that aid field identification. Additional taxonomic complexity was also evident, by comparison with DNA barcodes from international locations, suggesting that the specific names applicable for two of the candidate species in Australia remain unresolved due to confusion surrounding type specimens. Although flathead gobies are assumed to be widespread and common, this study demonstrates that unrealised taxonomic and ecological complexity is evident, and this will influence assessments of tropical biodiversity and species conservation. This study supports the need for taxonomic studies of freshwater fishes to underpin management in areas subject to significant environmental change.