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Koi Tattoo Meaning & Ideas

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Koi Tattoo Meanings and Ideas

A koi (or a carp) is a symbol of aspiration and advancement. If a koi climbed the falls at the Dragon Gate point on the Yellow river, a Japanese legend says it was transformed into a dragon. This is the basis for the symbolism that this fish represents.

The Japanese also associate this fish with perseverance in tough conditions and determination to reach a goal. It represents strength and the ability to overcome obstacles, it stands for courage and ambition for high achievements.

Buddhism also regards this fish as symbolic, particularly of courage, even of good fortune or luck. Buddhists believe that similarly to koi, humans swim through an ocean of suffering, many without fear.
blue koi with red fins blue koi
Family connections are represented by various colors:

Koi is also connected with family and on Children’s day a display of flags shows these fish in various colors to symbolize fathers (black koi), mothers (orange or red koi), sons (blue or white koi) and daughters (red or pink koi).


black koi represents father orange koi represents mother blue koi represents daughter red koi represents son
A possible translation of “koi” into English is “love” because the kanji character for “heart” – “kokoro” is included in both characters, so “koi” and “ai” can mean love in English. There are different nuances in the meanings as “koi” is predominantly romantic or passionate love. This is the love for a life partner and the emotion that pulls us towards that person. On the other hand, “ai” represents a more general type of love.

Koi Tattoo Ideas

aaa aaa pink koi pair   koi tatoo idea
Koi tattoos can also have different meanings depending on the color, the number of fish included in the design and their movement and direction in the stream. Wealthy and prosperous life can, for instance, be represented by five golden koi. When combined with a flowing stream of water, this represents ambitions, courage, determination for a goal and overcoming of obstacles as mentioned above. Some people even perceive koi as having a sexual meaning and think that the orientation of the fish determines the sexual orientation of the person carrying the tattoo.

Koi Different Tattoo Meanings Images

koi pair 3 fish red black height=
The sexual interpretation is, however, not as frequent as the classic connection to the Dragon Gate. A swimming fish enduring the strength of the stream and overcoming obstacles is a metaphor that translates well into the world of tattoo design and has found a considerable fan base. There are cultures that have found their own symbolism in this fish, this is especially visible in the charm market where golden koi charms are used as symbols of wealth and prosperity. But this has not entirely transformed into the tattoo world and the most popular interpretation remains the one based on a carp swimming against the stream.

koi swimming upstream red koi red blue white koi

Any tattoo can have more meanings, even personal meanings that perhaps do not match with the widely perceived symbolism. These beautiful tattoos also offer this space for personal interpretation and no such meaning can be considered entirely wrong. Every person has different reasons for getting a tattoo and everyone can see something different in a single design. If you research the meanings of koi tattoos, you may end up really confused, but no matter what you seek in a tattoo, you have many options with a classic yet versatile design such as the this durable and revered fish.

Some Beautiful Koi Artwork

orange an pink koi blue black and white pair koi   par koi japanese tattoo   

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