Koi Fish Tattoos: 45+ Gorgeous Ideas & What They Mean

tattoo koi fish
Thinking about getting a tattoo, but not sure if koi fish would be the best choice? Find out what it might mean, how the colors affect it, and what awesome ideas are out there.

Unusual, special, and meaningful — that’s how we could describe the best koi fish tattoos designs. This is probably the most popular fish tattoo, and yet not everyone gets the idea of getting one. 

The koi fish came to us from Chinese and Japanese cultures and it is more accustomed to us to call it Japanese carp (although koi sounds more mysterious, agree). Today we will tell you all about this type of tattoo, and perhaps even debunk some myths. 

The Meaning of the Koi Fish Tattoo

koi fish tattoo

An ancient Chinese legend, which has also become popular in Japan, states that the brave Koi carp was not afraid to climb up the waterfall to the Dragon Gate and, as a reward for this feat, was turned into a dragon. This act has made the carp a symbol of courage, strength, and perseverance in achieving one’s goal. A caught carp is said to take the blow of a carving knife without flinching. The tattoo of a carp in Japan is therefore inextricably linked to the meaning of this legend — the body image is applied to those who wish to:

  • At all costs to achieve the goal, to come to the desired result;
  • To add discipline and persistence;
  • To receive a stimulus to goal-setting.

It is worth noting that the tattoo, according to the beliefs, also brings good luck. To make a tattoo on the leg or other part of the body means to attract success, and it is believed that the bigger the image, the faster will come prosperity.

The word “koi” in Japanese means “love“. But if you want to express feelings, for example, for your parents, or homeland, the subject is not chosen correctly. Koi means love between a man and a woman.

The meaning of the Japanese koi carp tattoo is related to the longevity attributed to this fish. And among the Buddhists, there is a perception that the carp embodies independence and courage.

Experience the artistry of the best koi fish tattoo designs with our updated gallery! Search for and find inspiration with dozens of beautiful artworks and the creators behind them.

One Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

A single tattoo of a koi fish can have many meanings, which we described above. It is both perseverance, and a symbol of good luck, and even femininity, if the fish is in red. We will talk in detail about the importance of color further.

The favorite places for such tattoos are usually the arms, and they are often depicted in a small, neat size. However, such trends do not oblige you to anything because the flight of fancy is always welcome.

Two Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

They are usually depicted as two koi fish swimming next to each other. They symbolize the duality of life and the balance of opposing life forces, but can also mean the acceptance of the ups and downs that life represents. 

Quite often the two koi fish are depicted as a yin-yang symbol. In Taoism, Yin and Yang symbolize the opposing sides of all things and the perfect balance and harmony between them. The circular motion of the fish represents the belief that all things in life are connected.

Although it may mean something of its own to you, up to using this design as a matching tattoo.

Compositions With Koi Fish in Tattoos

The beauty and ways in which we can tattoo a koi fish are so varied that the possibilities for tattoo designs are almost endless. And not only because of the fish itself but also because of the many options for how it can be combined with other elements related to Chinese or Japanese culture. This is why koi fish tattoos are often found together with different elements, such as the lotus flower.

The lotus is another great symbol of Asia because of the beauty of these flowers, which grow in muddy and murky places. This is why they are widely known, as they show that beauty can appear anywhere.  

By the way, in feng shui, it is believed that a tattoo will only work near its environment. For carps, it is water. Therefore, it is better to draw the fish against the background of waves. It means freedom and limitlessness of human possibilities.

Here are a few more options for the most common tattoos: 

  • a koi carp, depicted with the head of a dragon, is a powerful amulet that can protect people from all sorts of trouble;
  • fish, surrounded by large flower buds (not necessarily lotuses), is also popular with tattoo fans;
  • complement the drawing with a variety of hieroglyphs and inscriptions.

So, there is a suitable sketch for any customer. The main thing is to use your imagination to create a picture and to choose a master responsibly.

Colors in Koi Fish Tattoos: Do They Matter?

Colors in koi fish tattoos: do they matter?

Koi fish tattoos can have different symbolism and meaning depending on the color and shape they were tattooed. We can summarize them according to the following types:

Black koi fish: The black color is used to denote the ability to withstand various adversities on the road. Using the comparison to the story of the koi fish, we could talk about its power to traverse and climb a waterfall. And we have difficult paths in life, but nothing is impossible.

Blue koi fish: Blue tones are used to symbolize reproduction or family, a child. We can also point to it as synonymous with peace and relaxation. Thus, a koi fish tattoo in blue is ideal to denote a child or family.

Red koi fish: Red is used to denote love or strength that people may encounter, and with all kinds of adversities in life. In this case, it would be used for koi to emphasize that they can survive in waters with unfavorable or too rough currents. However, one thing must be kept in mind. The red carp in the Japanese is a symbol of femininity, so men should avoid this coloring of the tattoo.

Yellow koi fish: Tattoos often use a combination of yellow and orange-gold colors with koi fish. These golden fish symbolize happiness and wealth. The Japanese term for them is yamabuki.

The most important of these three colors among the various Asian cultures is red (especially in Japan). And if you doubt it, there are quite a few cases where black koi fish are tattooed with red and white details or any other colors.

Koi Fish Swimming up vs Swimming Down

Koi fish tattoo

Notions of the meaning and direction in which a koi fish swims vary widely. Some theories about what it means are contradictory. But, if you use koi in your tattoo, you can choose the meaning that applies to you. After all, tattoos are a form of self-expression.


  • You are currently in a battle or struggle and are still struggling with obstacles, but you are not giving up.
  • Believing that you will overcome the obstacles and gain the strength you need to continue swimming against the stream.


  • You don’t yet have the strength to overcome obstacles and move toward success.
  • You have already reached your goal and overcome all obstacles or effectively solved all the problems.


Oriental culture is multifaceted, and each symbol here has an ancient meaning. That is why it is better not to apply a tattoo with koi carp thoughtlessly. First, you should understand the symbolism and talk to the master, and then move on to the realization of his most ambitious ideas.

Also, if you decide to get koi fish tattoo, it is better not to copy existing sketches. You can use the ideas on our website for inspiration, to get ideas for your sketch. After all, as we’ve said many times before, each sketch should be unique and reflect what’s important to you!


? What Does a Koi Fish Tattoo Mean?

A koi carp is a tattoo depicting a fish swimming against the current. In artistic images, fighting the current is seen as the ability to resist life’s obstacles and hardships. Most often such a tattoo means perseverance. In the same way, there are interpretations of the symbol of good luck or love between a man and a woman.

? What Do the Colors Mean on Koi Fish?

1. The red koi fish is a symbol of femininity, motherhood, and fertility.
2. A black koi fish is a sign of masculine power, the greatness of a man, and his superiority.
3. Blue and white are a symbol of family well-being and masculinity.
4. The symbol of a fish surrounded by a variety of plants and flowers is also popular. Such a carp is a sign of fertility and wealth.

? Is It Ok To Get a Koi Fish Tattoo?

Of course, a tattoo of a koi fish is okay. There are no hidden bad connotations in its meaning. On the contrary, the koi fish is considered one of the most powerful tattoos with deep meaning. It can become your real talisman.

? How Many Koi Fish Is Good Luck?

In Japan, the number 9 is considered a symbol of good luck, so it is there 9 fish koi bring good luck. But if you are not Japanese, you probably have another number that brings good luck, it might even be a one.


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