Koi Fish Tattoos – Designs, Ideas & Symbolic Meaning

Koi fish tattoo

Stunning colorful koi fish tattoo

Koi Fish Tattoos are derived from the real Koi fish that have a rather interesting history and mythology.  Both sides of the globe are acknowledged in their hybridization which is actually a very delicate matter.  If they are released into the wild they will revert to their normal gray coloring within several generations. An additional piece of trivia; the breeding of Koi led to the development of the common goldfish.  Although China was the first on the eastern part of the globe to start working with this carp, it is Japan that introduced them to the world.  The word Koi in Japanese translates to carp.  However, as in most languages there is another word that sounds exactly the same; and it means love.  Traditionally the different colors that were created in the Koi were for beauty. But, as in all things meaning is assigned to color. The same applies to Koi Fish Tattoos.  Some agree with this and others do not.  It’s your choice.

Types of Koi Fish Tattoos (and Their Meaning)

Dragon Koi Fish Tattoos – Dragon Koi fish tattoos actually tell a story.  Many people like to wear this as a sleeve for this reason. The legend says that a certain koi had the strength and courage to climb a certain waterfall. When the koi reached the top exhausted, yet having reached its goal, the koi was transformed into a dragon!

Yin Yang Koi Fish Tattoos – Yin Yang Koi fish tattoos are very popular for a number of reasons.  First they complement Japanese philosophy and they pay tribute to a beloved fish.  When looking at images of Koi fish tattoos notice that two fish are used to form a circle.  The forming of an exact circle is very important to any Yin Yang tattoos for the circle itself is symbolic.  Many people also refer to this tattoo as the Black and White Koi Fish Tattoos.

Black Koi Fish Tattoos – Black Koi fish tattoos are actually reserved for the men of the family in Japan.  However, there is a lot of discussion about the colors of Koi and their meaning. For instance if you look at Yin and Yang Koi Fish Tattoos, you’ll notice the inclusions of a black Koi.  This doesn’t represent the father, but the mostly masculine side that also contains some feminine qualities.

Blue Koi Fish Tattoos – Blue Koi Fish Tattoos are reserved for the son in a Japanese family.  However, just like the Black Koi Fish Tattoos they have been westernized and can take on other meaninga.  The electric blues in these tattoos are stunning.  Blue represents calmness, tranquility, and peace.


Red Koi Tattoo

Red Koi Tattoo

Red Koi Fish Tattoos – Red Koi fish tattoos are reserved for the mother of a Japanese family.  Pink Koi fish tattoos are for the daughters.  However these colors in the western world have a different meaning and can be used to color Koi fish tattoos as you choose.

Pisces Koi Fish Tattoos – Pisces Koi fish tattoos are worn by those born under the astrological sign of Pisces which is represented by the fish. Pisces are well known for their ability to get along with just about anyone. A Koi in the color that represents Pisces along with the astrological symbol would make a nice design.

Tribal Koi Fish Tattoos – Tribal Koi fish tattoos would tend to lean toward the masculine side unless you decided to use color in your Koi.  If presented in traditional black on a female and you want a feminine look use other symbols that identify with your female side.

Lotus Flower and Koi Fish Tattoo – Lotus flower and Koi fish tattoos are loaded with symbolic meaning and beauty. The lotus flower is typically seen in pink, white or blue, and symbolize, from different cultures, purity, beauty, and rebirth.  Couple that with the strength and courage of the Koi, add some color for additional meaning and…well you see what I mean.

Cartoon Koi Fish Tattoos – Cartoon Koi fish tattoos are really a design style.  The Koi fish tattoos are not usually done in complete cartoon style; rather some cartoon features are added.  For example, the eyes may be exaggerated as well as the scales.  Perhaps the water stream is exaggerated but not the fish. The color of the fish may be overstated but not any other feature.

Koi Fish Tattoos for Women – Koi fish tattoos for women would want to stay away from black which is really traditionally held for the masculine side; unless you are a woman with a predominately masculine side in which case it would be absolutely appropriate. If you gravitate to your feminine side stay with the red, pink, golden, and flower and Koi fish tattoos.  Really popular among women are the stand alone Koi fish tattoos that symbolize the triumph and courage you mustered up to make it through a particularly challenging time in your life.

Coloring of Koi Fish Tattoos

Black and white koi tattoo on calf

Black and white koi tattoo on calf

We’ve talked quite a bit about coloring above, but a few more words.  Golden Koi Fish Tattoos are extremely popular.  They were the first colored Koi created and all metal colored Koi fish tattoos represent wealth and prosperity.  Don’t be afraid to mix the colors of your Koi.  Use several colors to represent all of the traits of your personality or the members of your family.

Placement of Koi Fish Tattoos

There are two subjects to talk about here; the placement of the fish in Koi fish tattoos and the placement on your body.  First, Koi fish are compared to Salmon in their tenacity when it comes to swimming upstream.  Many people like to illustrate that in their tattoo.  Also, many men like to illustrate the Koi swimming up the waterfall to tell the story of the Koi becoming a dragon.  Placement on your body – That’s one of the beauties of Koi fish tattoos, they can be sized to fit anywhere depending on your design and budget. Unlike some tattoos they look beautiful, stunning, masculine, and feminine in any size or placement.

Celebrities with Koi Fish Tattoos

Charlize Theron

More koi Fish Tattoos

koi fish body art

two identical koi Fish Tattoos on stomach

Uncomplete koi tattoo

Colorful blue and red koi fish tattoo

Blue Koi Carp tattoo on left leg

koi sleeve tat

Koi Fish Paintings for Inspiration

katch 1/ mike higuchi koi painting

koi and yin yang painting


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