Species flocks within Great Lakes provide unique insights into the factors affecting diversification. Lake Tanganyika (LT) is of particular interest because it contains many endemic groups for which general factors affecting diversification can be discerned. Here, we present the first phylogenetic study of the LT Synodontis (Siluriformes, Mochokidae) species flock using mtDNA sequence data. Our data reveal some previously unrecognized species diversity and indicate that the LT species flock is not monophyletic, and that two closely related clades of endemics may have independently colonized LT. Other comparable small species flocks are characterized by a single colonization event. Molecular date estimates of the timing of the initial within-lake diversification of the LT endemics, based on a fossil calibration, are comparable to those reported for other groups, suggesting that extrinsic factors maybe important common causes of clade diversification. The basal divergence in the sampled Synodontis reveals an East–West African faunal split seen in many terrestrial, but few aquatic groups, the timing of which coincides with East African rifting events.