Accurately quantifying biodiversity is fundamental for both evolutionary theory and conservation strategies. DNA-based studies are exposing high cryptic diversity irrespective of taxonomic group or environmental setting, and increasing the ever-growing estimates of global biodiversity. This has severe implications for under-sampled and species-rich tropical regions, such as the Amazon Basin. We used biogeographic predictions derived from geomorphological history and contemporary hydrochemical and genetic data to examine cryptic diversity in the Amazonian driftwood catfish Centromochlus existimatus. Using both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA markers, five deeply divergent cryptic lineages are reported, for which at least three are sympatric in distribution. These lineages appear relatively old, with divergence times dating back to middle Miocene. Diversification events appear to be chronologically associated with the formation of the modern Amazon River system, and perhaps influenced by hydrochemical gradients between tributaries. The cause of apparent morphological stasis in the C. existimatus species complex is speculated within the context of hydrochemistry and non-visual mating cues and a full taxonomic revision is recommended. Our findings suggest that the diversity of Amazonian ichthyofauna is vastly underestimated and highlight the relevance of biogeographic predictions to guide sampling efforts in ecologically complex and under-studied ecosystems.