Koi Fish – Meaning, Symbolism, Design, and Ideas

Koi fish isn’t just any ordinary fish. Fish who became a symbol of persistance in China and Japan, lives in the ponds and water gardens, and is special for its legendary story about how it succeded in becoming a greater creature.

Koi fish tattoo is a very special tattoo, found in different colors, variations and interestingly, even in different kind of scales, which makes every koi fish tattoo a small work of art.One koi fish can be so personalized that it actually represents the bearer really well.

If you want to get a koi fish tattoo, you can easily find it in whatever color is your favorite: white, red, black, yellow and more. The golden koi fish tattoo which is made from combinations of other colors such as yellow and orange, are especially popular.

The popularity of the fish in Asian culture is very interesting, but expected in the country whose habitants so strongly believe in luck and in magic. They have a special connection with fish since it had been feeding their nation for centuries.

Koi fish are known for their remarkable power to climb the waterfalls on the river but legend also says that the fish turn into a dragon after climbing upwards. This happens at HuangHo river and is really something special.

This is how this fish became a symbol of perseverance and persistence no matter the difficulties on the way. Even though hundreds of fish give up and don’t climb the waterfall, the legend says that every fish that succeeds will be awarded greatly.

A different kind of symbolism has also been taken from it: the koi fish tattoo can also mean that you “swim against the current” and don’t want to go with the flow, but you want to have your own opinion. In the light of that, this tattoo works great for independent people who don’t want to lose their freedom and who never give up no matter what obstacles lie in the way.

It also speaks about the strength and the courage to do so because it is not easy to be different from the others. This is easier nowadays but earlier in history it was a very hard thing to do.

In Japan, the koi fish symbolizes masculinity. When a son is born into the family, the koi fish flags are risen in the home. Men are very proud of this and the birth of the son is also a sign of fortune and luck in their tradition.

Koi fish Tattoo, Meaning, Symbolism

There are a lot of different designs and variations of the koi fish and a lot of them are connected to the masculinity. You can pick the one you like the most and make it a meaningful work of art on your body. Go beyond the beauty of tattoo and choose colors of your koi fish wisely, so it wouldn’t be misunderstood or taken in the wrong way.

Black koi fish is a sign of a victorious event which happened after the power has shifted. That is why the head of the family has this symbol as his own.

Koi Fish – Meaning, Symbolism, Design, and Ideas

Blue koi fish tatoo represents the challenge and the power of reproduction. This is also very meaningful to them since they are greatly devoted to their children.

The yellow koi fish has been associated with dragons for a long time because the yellow color is the color of dragon for centuries. This dragon-like tattoo looks great on the body, especially with a dash of golden color into it.

The black and white koi fish is considered as a yin-yang symbol which speaks about the balance of the nature and how all things are closely connected although it doesn’t seem that way. Yin and yang are the two forces of universe that are not like any other force in physics: although they are different, they create, not destroy each other’s work.

As for the koi fish tattoo, the symbolics of the fish can be changed if the fish has a different orientation as a body tattoo, since the meaning can be changed if the orientation of the fish is going up or down.

Koi fish are famous in Chinese and Japanese legends. This fish has been a common fish until it was domesticated. After that the koi fish was bred and the beautiful colors on her were born.

Koi fish came to Japan by Chinese warriors, but the Japanese made the fish to prosper in their country. This means that Japan valued the koi fish very much.

What is the koi fish legend?

The legend of the Koi fish says that the hundreds of koi fish swam up the Yellow River.

But when they reached the waterfall, most of the fish turned back and gave up while just a few stayed to fight against the current and at the end, only one succeeded.

This one fish impressed gods so much that they have turned it into a beautiful golden dragon. Other fish which succeeded in the same way were also rewarded.

These waterfalls are now called the “Dragon’s Gate.”

The legend still lives, and it says that any koi fish reaches the top of the falls will become the dragon. Asian people still have a pretty strong connection to this myth and they believe that it is true.

It is also believed that the koi fish has enormous courage, and if it caught it will not be affraid of the cutting knife and will have the strength and bravery just like a Japanese samurai.

So, if the koi fish on your tattoo is swimming upstream ,or is swimming downstream, the meaning will not be the same. It depends, though, mostly on the bearer and the way he/she wants the tattoo to look like.

It is believed that if the koi fish swimms upstream in the tattoo, then it means that the tattoo owner is struggling with difficulties but will never give up.

It can also mean that you have already overcome the troubles and you are again ready and strong to continue swimming against the current, and overcoming new obstacles.

Going downstream means that you still haven’t found the strength to overcome all the obstacles in your way and still haven’t joined the side of the success.

Koi fish tattoo going downstream can also mean that you have succeeded in your quest but you are no longer fighting the current.

Kou fish have also a big power of adaption to any water conditions and to any climate. That is why they are considered so special and strong.

The meanings of koi fish tattoos:

These are some traits a koi fish tattoo can symbolize:

Overcoming obstacles – the most popular koi fish tattoo meaning which represents struggle. This is connected to the previously mentioned legend and it is obvious why these little creatures can be a sign of strength and power.

finishing their quest and reaching the goal like one of the most ambitious animals. It doesn’t matter that they are small: they still succeed in their plans.

transformation in life – this is according to the transformation of the fish into a dragon. This proves that anyone can change in any way they want, they just need to pay attention and work very hard, like the little koi fish did.

prosperity and luck – the transformation you will achieve if you start to believe in yourself will bring you more luck and more happiness, that’s for sure.

power – not every fish makes its way to become a dragon but only the most powerful ones. If you are ready to devote to something, it is very possible that you will encounter a new way of being powerful, perhaps one you haven’t seen before.

independence – if you think that a koi fish is weak just because of its size, you are very wrong.


passionate love

Koi fish Tattoo Design and Ideas

These are the different koi fish tattoo colors which have different meaning.

Different meanings are related to different colors.

Black koi fish tattoo

The black koi fish tattoo is related to the success because it means that you have come through battle and finally succeeded to your place on solid ground, gaining power to continue and win a new fight.

A lot of examples related to black koi fish mean that you have beaten depression or a drug addiction or similar situations which require a great strength of character to overcome.

Japanese connect fish colors with family members so that every member (father, mother, son, daughter) has a different koi fish as a their symbol.

They even have a ritual of flying the koi fish flags on Children’s Day in May, to honor these animals and to thank the gods for their families.

Interestingly enough, the father in the household has a black koi fish as his symbol, which is the most important symbol.

Getting a black koi fish tattoo can be a sign of your lead in the family or workplace.

Red koi fish tattoo

The red koi fish is the fish connected to love but a very passionate and intense love.

Both mothers and daughters can share the red koi fish as their symbol. Mothers can also have an orange fish and daughters can have pink, but red works both ways.

Red doesn’t only represent love but it also represents bravery. That can mean that your red koi fish tattoo can mean that you are in a very intense but brave relationship.

Blue koi fish tattoo

The blue koi is always related to fertility and  reproduction. It is considered as a very masculine tattoo symbol. This has a great meaning for Japanese since they appreciate family a lot.

But it also represents calmness and peace, just like blue ordinary is. Blue is the color of being happy with your life.

Yellow koi fish tattoo

The yellow koi fish tattoo represents the power of the dragon and is also a symbol of wealth and luck. The tattoos are often made in combination with yellow and orange.

Dragon is made in yellow a lot so it is often tattoed in that color.

Yin-Yang koi fish tattoo

This tattoo represents the circle of life and that everything in life is in some kind of connection.

The black and white koi fish tattoo is a combination of male and female, war and peace, and evetything else which is connected makong a great balance. This fits to the Chinese philosophy where everything in the universe is connected and interrelate.

Sometimes the yin-yang tattoo has Chines letters near the tattoo.

Maybe you didn’t know but “yin-yang” means “dark-bright” in Chinese.

Koi fish “fire and water” tattoo

This tattoo is similar to koi fish yin-yang tattoo since it also represents opposite things together in perfect balance. This tattoo is actually made of two different koi fish made to swim in the way that reminds of the yin-yang sign.

One fish is surrounded by water, and the other one is surrounded with flames of fire.

Dragon koi fish tattoi

The legends that tell us that koi fish were awarded and became dragons are the reason that this combination of images exist.

The dragon alongside koi fish symbolizes the difficult journey which was awarded in the end. The two of them on the same tattoo are representing the ability of transformation.

The dragon koi tattoo is a symbol of difficulties which can be overcome.

The dragon is the symbol of a great will to survive and transform into something more powerful than hoped.

It can also symbolize a new birth of the tattoo bearer or you can choose to tattoo it as a sign of a new beginning in your life, with past completely forgotten.

Colored Koi Fish Tatto

Koi fish tattoos are mostly made in gold design, or as a combo of silver, black and orange as it was discovered that these colors work best.

Other images that are often placed beside koi fish are lotus flowers and letters in Chinese.

Lotus is one of the elements which sits great with koi fish due to the fact that it also lives and grows in the muddy water but still turns into a majestic flower.

Lotus is in that way another symbol of struggle and change just as koi fish.

Koi Lotus tattoo

When a koi fish finds itself with lotus on the same tattoo, you would have to find the meaning in some other way because this image can have a lot of meanings.

Koi fish is always monochrome on this kind of tattoo but lotus is always painted pink or blue with yellow inside. That gives a great contrast to the fish.

Wave Shaped Koi Fish Tattoo

This way of tattooing gives a traditional look of the tattoo and is great for all admirers of Japanese culture since it is the Japanese wave shape style in question. The wave is holding the fish on the tattoo.

Koi fish sleeve tattoo

This tattoo is very often in Japan because men like its majestic look. The fish is often tatooed in a bright color, surrounded with flowers, water and some ater plants and it goes all over the arm.

This looks great even if it is made in black and white because everything is so detailed, all to the scales on the body of the koi fish.

It looks even more great if the fish is made in one bright color and everything else is black and the fish is going up the hand like it is going upstream.

Where to place you koi fish tattoo?

Koi fish tattoo looks great on every place on the body because it can be made in various sizes and shapes.

It can be tattooed on the neck, arms, chest, shoulders, back or even ears.

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