Koi fish tattoos explained – Part II

Welcome back to our second part of the meaning and symbolism behind one of the tattoo industry’s most popular designs, the koi fish.


The symbolism in koi


The koi represents many things, but mostly determination, perseverance, and strength, all harking back to their legend of swimming to the top of a waterfall and turning into a dragon.


This myth also incorporates the ideals of overcoming obstacles and reaching a goal, as well as completing a transformation in life.


Dragons, of course, are extremely powerful, and koi can represent someone who believes they are on a journey to becoming successful.


Why their colour matter


Koi were originally carp, but much like how dogs came from wolves, humans have bred them into their own species.


Along the way, certain fish were bred for their colours, resulting in a beautiful rainbow of options. Each colour of koi represents a different meaning.


The black koi is associated with overcoming darker obstacles, such as drug addiction, depression, or an abusive relationship. The black koi is favoured by those who have come through a lot in life, and have finally made it out the other end.


Red, as in most cultures, represents love. Variants of red can represent female family members, such as orange for a mother and pink for a sister.


Red is also, of course, a symbol for power and bravery, with associations with blood. It is also said that if a koi is caught, it will await the cut of the knife without a quiver with the bravery of a Samurai warrior facing the sword in battle. This clearly portrays the cultural beliefs in the strength and courage of the koi.


The blue koi is often very masculine and can be associated with reproduction. Blue and white koi are symbols of the son of a family. As with anything blue, it also represents peace, tranquillity, and calmness.


Tattoos often use a combination of yellow and orange to represent a gold-coloured koi. These gold-coloured fish symbolize fortune and wealth. The Japanese term for them is yamabuki.




If you would like a stunning koi tattoo, come and talk to us here at Chapel. Our artists have extensive experience with Japanese art, and some of their work is simply stunning.


Contact us today for more information, or if you’re in Melbourne, why not pop in and say hello. Our friendly staff will be happy to have a chat with you.