A polyphasic approach was used to clarify the taxonomy of the water-bloom-forming oscillatorioid cyanobacteria. Seventy-five strains of oscillatorioid cyanobacteria were characterized by 16S rDNA sequence analysis, DNA base composition, DNA-DNA hybridization, fatty acid composition, phycobilin pigment composition, complementary chromatic adaptation, morphological characters, growth temperature and salinity tolerance. Phylogenetic analysis based on 16S rDNA sequences divided the strains into six groups, all of which were clearly separated from the type species of the genus Oscillatoria, Oscillatoria princeps Gomont NIVA CYA 150. Therefore, these strains should be classified into genera other than Oscillatoria. Groups I-III were closely related to one another and groups IV-VI were distinct from one another and from groups I to III. Group I was further divided into two subgroups, group I-pc, which includes strains containing only phycocyanin (PC), and group I-pe, which includes strains containing large amounts of phycoerythrin (PE) in addition to PC. This phenotypic distinction was supported by DNA-DNA hybridization studies. Based on the properties examined herein and data from traditional, botanical taxonomic studies, the groups and subgroups were classified into single species and we propose either emended or new taxonomic descriptions for Planktothrix agardhii (type strain NIES 204T), Planktothrix rubescens (type strain CCAP 1459/22T), Planktothrix pseudagardhii sp. nov. (type strain T1-8-4T), Planktothrix mougeotii (type strain TR1-5T), Planktothricoides raciborskii gen. nov., comb. nov. (type strain NIES 207T), Tychonema bourrellyi (type strain CCAP 1459/11BT) and Limnothrix redekei (type strain NIVA CYA 277/1T).