1. The response of a species to environmental disturbance is largely mediated by its life history traits that have evolved within a particular habitat template. Altered flow seasonality, as a direct consequence of river regulation, is a major environmental disturbance and has been implicated in the redistribution of a range of riverine organisms. An understanding of the reasons for species-specific responses, however, has proved elusive. 2. Here, we investigated the reproduction of three riverine shrimp species (Paratya australiensis, Caridina mccullochi and Macrobrachium australiense) that show contrasting patterns in distribution and abundance in regulated Australian rivers. 3. In all three species, breeding females were largest, and fecundity was greatest early in the breeding season (November–December). Fecundity and egg size subsequently declined, with lower investment (overall and per offspring) perhaps indicating that conditions for larvae were more favourable later in the breeding season (a time normally characterised by low flow, warm water and high productivity). 4. Interspecific differences in absolute values of reproductive traits were, however, striking. Paratya australiensis has typically 'opportunistic' traits (small body size, small eggs and high fecundity), whereas M. australiense has more 'equilibrium' traits (larger body size, larger eggs and moderate fecundity). Caridina mccullochi is intermediate, having neither high fecundity nor large size, and has limited swimming ability when young. This species is now absent from at least one heavily regulated river in south-eastern Australia, and we hypothesise that its life history may explain this absence. 5. Studies involving aspects of life history, such as reproductive traits, are likely to improve our understanding of a range of organisms and assist in the management of disturbed or altered environments.