Hydras belong to one of the earliest eumetazoan animal groups, but to date very little is known about their genome sizes, gene numbers, and chromosomes. Here we provide genome size estimates and corresponding karyotypes for five Hydra species. Nuclear DNA contents were assessed by slide-based Feulgen microphotometry. Hydra oligactis possesses the largest genome of 1450 Mbp, followed by similar 1 C capacities in H. carnea (1350 Mbp), H. vulgaris (1250 Mpb) and H. circumcincta (1150 Mbp). The smallest genome of 380 Mbp was determined in H. viridissima. While the number of chromosomes is identical in all five Hydra species (2n = 30), the size of the chromosomes is strictly correlated to the size of the genome, with H. viridissima having conspicuously small chromosomes. The taxonomic and evolutionary significance of the C-value and chromosomal size variation in this ancient group of metazoans as well as its impact on genomic organization and forthcoming genome projects are discussed.