The postcranial skeleton of vertebrates fulfils various tasks constrained by extrinsic and intrinsic requirements, which significantly differ between fishes and tetrapods. For instance, body support, storage of minerals, and haematopoiesis are less important for fishes, which include more than half of all living vertebrates, than for tetrapods. Evolutionary and developmental aspects of the various parts of the postcranial skeleton of fishes that perform many different functions, however, have received only limited attention. Our knowledge is limited in anatomical, morphological or taxonomic scope, in part because the composition of the postcranial skeleton differs significantly between fish lineages such as ‘agnathans’, chondrichthyans, actinopterygians, dipnoans and coelacanths. Here, we provide a broad overview of the evolutionary development of the postcranial skeleton of all extinct and extant fish lineages in a phylogenetic and genetic framework. It is obvious that our knowledge about the evolution and development of cartilage and bone formation, as well as the evolutionary sequence of postcranial parts, increased in recent years but, nevertheless, remains incomplete. Different roadmaps for future research topics emerge from this review.