35 Koi Fish Tattoo Inspirations for Men and Women


Tattoo is an art that expresses your individuality, and koi fishes are a common subject in body art. Yes, koi fishes are attractive and colorful, but more than that, they give special meanings to the person wearing them as tattoo. Whether you wish to decode the meaning behind the fish symbolism or think of getting one as a body art, keep on reading for our koi fish tattoo inspirations for men and women.

What is a “Koi Fish”?

In Japanese, the term “koi” refers to a “carp” fish. In fact, they were originally common carp and were later bred to produce different colors. That’s the reason why you can see them in a whole spectrum of colors, along with their decorative scales. If you like, you can even keep them in the ponds and raise them as pets, though they’re high-maintenance fish to take care of.

The Legend of the Koi Fish

Do you know that a koi fish is prominent in the Chinese and Japanese cultures? In fact, Chinese invaders brought them to Japan, where koi fishes became popular. According to the ancient legend, there was once a giant school of koi fishes swimming in the Yellow River in China—and they are strong enough to swim against the river’s current.

However, there’s a big challenge in the myth—koi fishes need to reach the top of the waterfall or the “Dragon’s Gate” for them to transform into a dragon. Unfortunately, pushing against the current is too hard where some koi fishes even kept trying for hundred years. In the ancient legend, there was one koi fish that successfully reached the top of the waterfall and turned into a beautiful dragon.

Up to our present day, the legend inspires a lot of people to be strong and persistent in their journey in life. In fact, Japanese people use them as a symbol of overcoming adversity.

Reasons to Get a Koi Fish Tattoo

  1. You want to show your optimism in facing your life challenges.

The ancient legend of koi fishes reaching the top of the waterfall will inspire you to stay on a positive mindset and on the right track to be successful in life, no matter how hard life is. Do you still remember that koi fishes even struggled for a hundred of years just to reach the Dragon’s gate?

It might be hard to swim against the current, but keeping your eyes on the price will help you to exert all of your energy and overcome every obstacle blocking your way. Koi fishes swam upstream even if it was too hard for them. Koi fishes are known for their willpower and courageous nature—the characteristics that will also help you to be successful in your life.

  1. You are overcoming obstacles and reaching a goal.

If you want to be unstoppable on reaching your goals, opt for a koi fish tattoo—it will remind you how capable they are on adapting to different water conditions just to get their prize. In the ancient legend, the obstacle is to reach the top of the waterfall even if you’re going to swim against the current. Your tattoo will be your inspiration to overcome your obstacles and reach your goals.

If you have a clear goal in your mind, yet you need some determination to cope up with your difficulties in life, think of a koi fish’s determination, dedication, and perseverance that will be rewarded in the end. Yes, those koi fishes that kept on striving to reach the top of the waterfall have turned into a beautiful dragon in the end—and you too can be successful if you keep your eyes on the price.

  1. You need an inspiration in your life.

A koi fish is a great symbol of overcoming adversity, perfect if you need some inspiration in your life. Their battles might seem impossible to win—reaching the Dragon’s gate and turning into a dragon—but their perseverance made them successful on fulfilling their destinies. If you feel loss in life, and you like to find your true purpose, drawing inspiration from koi fishes can be a great start.

Each one of us in this planet has a purpose, but you just need to find your calling. Start with the things you’re good at or the things you enjoy. You might find your life’s purpose in them. By getting a koi fish tattoo, you’ll be inspired to find your destiny and go for them no matter how hard the journey will be.

  1. You want to be prosperous and gain power in your life.

Do you know that some koi fishes even symbolize wealth and prosperity in Chinese culture? If you’re not a fan of legends and myths, yet you wish to be prosperous in your life, think of a koi fish tattoo. A great thing, a koi tattoo can mean a lot of symbolisms that will help you to focus on the positive aspects of your life and be successful. In fact, Chinese people use the koi symbols in their home and businesses to give them good luck.

Things to Consider Before Getting a Koi Tattoo


When it comes to tattoo designs, every little detail counts, especially to a koi fish’s orientation. Some people believe in the ancient legend of swimming koi fishes in the Yellow River, and whether you believe it or not, the upstream or downstream tattoo design will mean differently to others.


We all know that koi fishes are colorful and attractive, and it feels like inking them all over your body will make you a walking masterpiece. However, different colors of koi fishes mean differently for everyone, so you have to make sure the color you’ll pick reflects the thoughts you’re trying to convey in your tattoo. Apart from it, colorful tattoos tend to hurt more, so pick the best ones that will make you feel more confident and expressive.


Depending on your personality, you may show off your tattoos in your arm, chest, and legs; or keep them more personal in your hips or back. Also, if you’re just new to the world of tattoos, you might want to place them on less painful areas like forearm or thighs.

The Symbolism behind the Direction a Koi Fish Is Swimming

We now know that the swimming koi in tattoos were inspired by the ancient legend—but do you know that the orientation of your tattoo can affect the thoughts you’re trying to convey on your body art? Yes, whether a koi fish your tattoo is swimming upstream or downstream, it will give different interpretations.

If you’re still fighting for your battles, think of getting a tattoo in upstream design to show you won’t give up just like a koi fish reaching the top of the waterfall. On the other hand, if you’re successful enough and have achieved your life goals, you may think of a tattoo in a downstream design to convey that you’re not fighting the current anymore and you’re done with your battles.

Meanings behind the Colors and Complementary Symbols


Do you know in some cultures the black color symbolizes adversity? That’s the reason too why a black koi is associated with successfully overcoming an obstacle. Also, in the Japanese culture, a black koi symbolizes the father of a household.

If you’re someone who experienced a tough battle in life—depression, anxiety, abusive relationship, addiction—then a black koi is just perfect for you. If you have an inspiring life story to share like celebrating fatherhood, surviving a battle, and gaining success from rags to riches, then the black koi fish is a great good symbol.


On contrary to a black koi, a red koi represents the mother of the household or the female figure in the family. Also, the energetic red color has the connotation of a passionate love, where koi fishes can remind someone of his commitment to his lifetime partner. Apart from it, a red koi fish can also represent the power and bravery of the wearer.


We all know that blue is considered as the masculine color on contrary to pink, but sometimes a blue koi fish represent reproduction. Apart from it, the blue shade in color psychology represents peace, tranquility, and calmness that will add to the meaningful symbol of koi fishes.

Yellow or Gold

In Japanese culture, the yellow or gold koi fishes are also called as “yamabuki” that represent fortune and wealth. Whether you’re in a financial crisis or in the most abundant part of your life, yellow and gold koi can be your lucky charm and inspiration.


In Taoism, the yin and yang symbol represent balance and harmony, where everything in this world is believed to be connected to each other. Getting a tattoo design of koi fishes depicted in the yin yang symbol will represent the balance of life even in opposing forces. The two koi fishes in ying yang symbol can also represent a man and woman swimming together—a fulfilling life in a perfect balance and the harmony between opposites.


Do you still remember the ancient legend of a koi fish turning into a dragon? Yes, this tattoo design is closely related to that myth. A koi fish can become a dragon at the end of its difficult journey, and getting a tattoo design that represents the transformation of koi can give you inspiration to be strong on your current battles in life. Just like a koi reaching the Dragon’s Gate to fulfill its destiny, you can also be successful on facing your ordeals.

In Chinese cultures, a dragon symbolizes power and new beginnings that can be a perfect symbol if you want to move on and start with a new life. In a Japanese mythology, the koi fishes are reincarnated as dragons in the afterlife. Whether you believe these teachings or not, getting a dragon and koi tattoo will represent strength and willpower—perfect for someone striving to fulfill his destiny despite the hardships and difficulties.

Lotus Flower

A lotus flower represents beauty that comes out of hard circumstances—it grows out of muddy ponds yet adds beauty to the background. If you wish to get a tattoo of a koi fish swimming with a lotus flower, you’ll simply represent the hardships, struggle, and growth all together. Remember, a koi fish started as an ordinary fish and transformed into a beautiful dragon, while a lotus flower started in a dirty pond yet grew beautifully.

Where to place your Koi Fish Tattoo?

If you decide to get koi fish tattoos, think of your purpose and reasons of getting them—you might want to show your personal stories to others through your body art. You may also choose to get a small or big tattoo, tonal or colorful design, and soon. You just have to be specific so your tattoo artist will create the perfect design for you.

Feel free to place your koi fish tattoo on your arms, thighs, necks, wrists, hands, back, behind the ears and so on. Do you know that your shoulders are a great canvas for a tattoo artist to draw his masterpiece? It’s also a great spot to show off your body art, especially if you love wearing sleeveless tops. If you want to keep your tattoo more personal, you can place it on your back, hips, or legs.

Whether you’re wishing your career a success or overcoming an adversity, koi tattoos are a perfect symbolism for your courageous personality and strong character.


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