Japanese tattoos are part of today’s culture.
Indeed, thanks to vibrants colours and impressive designs, they earned their place as some of the most popular tattoos.

In the Japanese style there is a particular design tattoo that gained a lot of popularity in recents years: the Koi Fish.
Indeed it became kind of the iconic art of the Japanese tattoo style.

But do you really know the Koi Fish meaning, symbolism and history?

In this article we are to explain everything you need to know about Koi Fish tattoos before getting one.

Koi Fish mythology: the waterfall legend and its symbolism in the Chinese & Japanese culture

Koi fishes are domesticated carps from Japan that are part of the Japanese and Chinese culture. They have become popular designs tattoos for people all over the world in recent years.
This aquatic animal have a long history in Chinese and Japanese cultures thanks to many stories and legends.

The famous Koi tale goes like this

Once upon a time, a group of golden Koi carps were swimming upstream the Yellow River in China.

At some point in their journey, they encountered a huge waterfall.
When they faced the waterfall, all of the golden Koi carps turned back except one.
Indeed, the remaining Koi tried to jump as high as possible in order to reach the top of the waterfall.

The fish tried during many years and at some point it managed to reach the top of the waterfall.

But during these many years of attempts, the Gods were watching and they recognised the bravery of the Koi.

Thus, they decided to transform the golden Koi into a Dragon.

Since then, the Koi fish is a symbol of power, determination and freedom in the Japanese and Chinese cultures.

Why should you get a Koi fish tattoo? The different meanings behind the art.

Thanks to the waterfall legend, the Koi fish tattoo has various meanings such as:

  • having strength,
  • overcoming obstacles in life,
  • having a great determination and focus,
  • to be a free and open minded person,
  • a symbol of wealth and prosperity,
  • the balance between the Yin and the Yang,
  • etc …

As you can see there are plenty of good reasons to choose a Koi fish as your first tattoo.

Indeed, it has a great signification for the person getting tattooed.

Moreover, it’s a good piece to get on your canvas and generally a Koi fish tattoo tends to age well if you take proper care of it.

Last but not least, thanks to having various meaning, it will always mean something to you at each stage of your life. So you will not need to remove your tattoo.

Everything you need to know about the different meanings of each color in a Koi fish tattoo.

Each color in a Koi fish tattoo has a different meanings so we are going to explain the main ones.


The black Koi generally represents that the person managed to overcome an obstacle in their life.


The blue is a strong color for representing peace of mind and stability. It can also be used to show masculinity.


A yellow Koi is generally the symbol of wealth and prosperity.


A red Koi can have two main symbols: love and power.


A white Koi could mean that you found success and stability in your life. It is also a color of choice for people who want to show that they changed and they started a new life.

Beautiful design ideas for a Koi fish tattoo

In order to help you choose the best Koi fish art for your future tattoo, we compiled some of the best designs.

A beautiful black with colours Koi fish tattoo:

An awesome full sleeve Koi fish alongside a dragon tattoo:

A vibrant Koi:

I hope that you liked this article and if it’s the case, check our other guides on our tattoo magazine.