The colourful koi fish are among the most iconic symbols in traditional Asian tattoos. You may recognize them from the logo of our Toronto & Vancouver tattoo shops or from our Asian tattoo gallery. Koi fish are symbolic tattoos that can carry a great deal of meaning to their wearers.
What is a Koi FishKoi are a variety of colourful East Asian carp. Their Japanese name, nishikigoi, means “brocaded carp.” A fitting name for a fish commonly used decoratively in ponds and water gardens. Their vibrant colours are a result of millions of years of genetic mutation. The fossil record dates koi fish back as far as 20 million years, although they first got their name in 500 B.C. These iconic Japanese fish were actually first introduced by China. By the 19th, century koi farmers began breeding them for specific colour varieties.
The Koi Fish StoryThe koi fish tattoos are popular not because of a colourful fish, but because of a legendary fish. The legend of the koi fish starts in China’s Yellow River where they grew strong by swimming against the current. A school of koi battled the current, swimming upstream until reaching a waterfall at the river’s end. Most of the koi turned around but the bravest continued on, attempting to leap to the top of the waterfall. As the koi continued to attempt to climb the surging waters, demons laughed at their efforts and transformed the waterfall a larger, more challenging obstacle. Slowly the fish began to give up, one after another. After hundreds of years only one koi fish persevered. When it reached the top, the gods rewarded its efforts by transforming the koi fish into a golden dragon. Through this legend, koi fish became a symbol that embodies perseverance and determination.
The Meaning of a Koi Fish TattooThe most common meaning of koi fish tattoos is perseverance. They are often used to symbolize the struggles one has overcome or is overcoming in their own life. Other meanings can be added based on the colours and styles of the tattoo.
Meaning of Koi Fish Tattoos and their ColoursThe colour of a koi tattoo can change it’s meaning, although all interpretations are positive symbols. Of course, for your own koi tattoo, you can choose any colour, regardless of meaning. Traditionally, however, these colours have their own meanings:
Gold Koi Fish Tattoo MeaningGold, yellow, or orange are popular choices for koi fish tattoos. After all, the legendary koi transforms into a golden dragon. As well, this colour choice represents wealth, prosperity, and fortune - and who doesn’t want a little more of those?
Black Koi Fish Tattoo MeaningThe black koi is a symbol of masculinity that may represent fatherhood. It often recognizes a successful battle through struggle in one’s life.
Red Koi Fish Tattoo MeaningA red koi tattoo can carry a number of different meanings. It may be a symbol of intense love, motherhood, power, strength, or bravery. It’s a popular koi fish tattoo colour.
Blue Koi Fish Tattoo MeaningThe blue koi fish is often associated with masculinity and fertility. Other common meanings of blue koi tattoos are peace, serenity, and calmness.
White Koi Fish MeaningA white koi tattoo represents earning career success. It may also represent the son of a household.
Koi Style MeaningsThe style and layout of koi fish tattoos can also lend significance to their meaning. Some traditional styles include:
- Yin Yang