Koi Fish Tattoos Meanings

December 14, 2010

Japanese tattoo

Koi fish tattoos meanings have far more depth to them than people usually realize. Traditionally known as the Japanese carp, these fish often hold much greater symbolism for someone who chooses the piece as a tattoo.

Koi Fish Background

To many, the color of a koi fish determines its significance. Wild koi fish come in a variety of colors anywhere from a muddy gray to the bold orange with which they are commonly associated. The popular orange variety does not occur as often in nature since it is the product of a breeding plan implemented by fish farmers to produce a more marketable koi. In Japan, the word koi refers primarily to the wild variety. As a result, many of the country’s symbolic meanings for the fish refer to the wild variety instead of the fish species as a whole. One of the primary reasons the fish is symbolic in Japanese culture is because it is known for swimming upstream no matter what the conditions are. These fish are even said to swim up waterfalls. The knowledge of the koi is often illustrated in meanings of various koi tattoos.
Common Koi Fish Tattoos Meanings

Interested in finding a few of the meanings behind koi fish tattoos? Some of the most common include:

* Perseverance and power
* Independence
* Bravery
* Good luck and blessed fortune
* Masculinity

Perseverance and Power

In both Chinese and Japanese tradition, koi fish are known for swimming upstream. No matter the weather conditions, no matter how hard or steep it may be, no matter how many waterfalls – the koi fish will swim upstream. This is viewed as an absolute show of power because they will continue to swim upstream as if on a mission. They cannot be distracted or deterred by anything.


It is rare to see a fish swim upstream. When faced with adversity, most fish will “go with the flow” and follow the stream. Koi do not do this. As a result, they are seen as a symbol of non-conformity. The fish is portrayed as a living being who will follow the beat of his own drum no matter how much outside noise he hears.

Old mythology dictates that when a koi fish is taken out of the water, he does not flutter around in the manner most fish do. Instead, he moves very little and accepts anything that is given to him. Koi fish also will not move when placed on a cutting board. This is seen by many people as a sign of absolute bravery in the face of defeat because other fish would put up a fight.
Good Luck

While there may not be many reasons for it, many associate this fish with luck and good fortune. Many restaurants keep the fish around their front entrance in hope of blessing their stores with customers and, as a result, fortune.

In Asian cultures cultures, women are typically not viewed as equals with men the way they are in the United States. For this reason, the fish is associated with the “stronger” of the two sexes in those cultures. The power display the fish shows when swimming upstream has been associated with the power inside all men.

Source: tattoos.lovetoknow.com

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