145+ Traditional Koi Fish Tattoo designs and Meanings


The Japanese word ‘Koi’ literally translates to ‘carp’ or carp fish. But just because this word may seem simple, doesn’t always mean that a Koi fish doesn’t carry any deep meaning to it. ‘Koi’ is actually the abbreviation of a longer Japanese word, ‘Nishigikoi’. Koi fish are popular because of their stunning colors, not to mention their scales are shiny and contain decorative patterns. People often keep Koi fish in huge ponds, and raise them as pets, like you would with goldfish in an aquarium. You can even find specialty pet stores that sell groups of Koi. Keep in mind that a Koi is a high-maintenance fish, so it’s very expensive to take care of them and keep them happy.

In China, there’s a legend that tells of a Koi fish that swims against the strong current of the Yangtze river to reach the Dragon Gate, with the hopes that they can transform into a dragon once they move past it. Nowadays, this tale is usually the main reason why people love getting Koi tattoos, especially if they have faced major obstacles in life. People use the symbol of the Koi fish as a sign of bravery and luck.

In real life, Koi fish are energetic, especially when they live in a huge body of water. One of the reasons why people like the Koi fish tattoo design so much is because it’s a creature that carries plenty of symbolism. Koi fish have actually made it to the top as one of the best designs for animal-related tattoos. There are dozens of times in which the traditional Koi tattoo designs incorporate the fish splashing in water, with lotus leaves, or with sakura leaves (cherry blossoms) to create a gorgeous final look. Koi tattoos can look very intricate as well, and are comprised of arches, scales, and delicate curves. This is the reason why they’re so popular lately among tattoo enthusiasts.

Types of Koi Tattoo Designs           

In real life, Koi fish swimming in a pond or river look stunning. They are a beautiful species of fish, thanks to their intricate patterns and color combinations. Koi fish normally swim in cold waters, and are a popular symbol in East Asian culture, especially in Japan and China. Koi fish have also played an important role in myths and legends. Koi fish that swam upstream were known to transform into dragons, if they make past the Dragon’s Gate.

Koi fish tattoos might not be as popular as dragon tattoos or Chinese character tattoos, but it’s still a very interesting tattoo thanks to its meaning, its origin, as well as its beauty. A Koi fish that swims upstream actually has a different meaning than one that swims downstream. Different colors of Koi tattoos have different meanings as well. Koi tattoos have actually risen in popularity over the past couple of years, and a lot of younger people have been choosing Koi fish as a tattoo design.

  • Red Koi Tattoo: As with everything else, red has a positive connotation here – Meaning love and romance. And it’s not just any sort of love. A red koi tattoo symbolizes intense love filled with passion. The orange tattoo can mean the same thing too. Meanwhile, an orange koi tattoo can also represent the mother of a family, while a pink tattoo is for a daughter. Apart from that, a third meaning for red koi tattoo is bravery and power, another trait associated with the color red.
  • Dragon And Koi Tattoo: As mentioned, a popular Chinese legend tells the story of a Koi fish who transformed into a dragon after climbing up a waterfall. Since this is a reward given to the Koi after a long journey, a Koi and Dragon tattoo combination could represent a transformation in the person, either physically or spiritually. The same type of tattoo also symbolizes being able to overcome difficulties, which alludes to the Koi managing to climb up the Dragon Gate. Dragon Koi are determined and strong and will go against whatever obstacles they face to reach their goal. Dragons also represent ferocity and absolute power, rebirth, a brand new beginning, and a new start.
  • Lotus Koi Tattoo: A lotus is a stunning flower that can bloom even in the muddiest places. Bringing together Koi fish and lotus flowers in a tattoo will represent growth, struggle, and pain. Much like how the Koi overcame its struggles and became a powerful dragon in the end, lotus flowers begin with growing in a dirty pond, then become a gorgeous flower after blooming.
  • Yin And Yang Koi Fish Tattoo: The Koi fish accompanied by the East Asian yin-yang symbol make a wonderful combination in a tattoo. The symbol’s black and white sides are often meant to represent the harmony between the male and female energies, coming together as one and building a perfect balance. In Taoism, the yin-yang symbol also represents two dueling sides of each object, as well as the harmony and balance created between the two of them. A pair of koi fish swimming round and round can represent the wearer’s belief that each life is connected to one another. In Astrology, the symbol for Pisces shows two fish swimming in an opposite direction.
  • Yellow Koi Fish Tattoo: Orange and yellow koi are sometimes shown together as a pair. When combined, orange and yellow shades create gold. Golden koi represent wealth, prosperity, and good fortune. In Japanese, this term is known as ‘yamabuki’.

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Koi Tattoo Meaning

Despite the fact that it’s mostly a Japanese symbol, Chinese people also have their own depiction of the Koi fish. This depicts the pair of fish swimming against the strong current of the Yangtze River, or the Yellow river. According to legend, if a Koi reaches the Dragon Gate top at the beginning of the river, they can transform themselves into a dragon, as a reward for their perseverance and hard work.

Legends such as these have inspired plenty of people who have managed to conquer obstacles in life to get themselves a Koi fish tattoo. These individuals have used the fish as a reminder of what they have gone through, or the sheer luck and bravery that allowed them to pass through an adversity and became successful in the end.

It is perhaps the best tattoo for those who have battled cancer, or someone who went through so many hardships to achieve something great in their career or in life. A Koi fish tattoo’s design is their own mark of success against hardships. It also serves as an inspiration for them to continue working hard to fulfill their dreams. Other people, meanwhile, are simply attracted to Koi tattoos because of the graceful designs and the shading used.

Koi fish might seem simple, but it carries plenty of meaning especially for those people who decide to get it as a part of a bigger back or sleeve tattoo, or even if you only want it as an individual tattoo. If you want to get yourself a tattoo of a koi fish, then make sure you learn the meaning closely associated with them. The deeper meaning of a koi fish will all depend on the direction where the fish is going – Upwards, or downwards, along with your choice of color. Make sure that the koi fish tattoo that you’ve chosen will show off the meaning that you want to convey.

Ideal Koi Tattoo Placement

If you want to get yourself a Koi tattoo, then you need to place it on a spot where it can be easily seen – That is, if you want people to know about your story about hard work and perseverance. A lot of people who opt to get Koi tattoos place them along their necks, the back, the chest, the fingers, the ears, the feet, and the thighs. Shoulders are also the best place for you to put in a Koi tattoo, especially since they’re meant to be a lovely canvas for the artist to draw a tattoo design on. Plenty of people also choose to get these tattoos done on their arms, so that people will be able to see it when the wearer dons a tank top, a dress, or any other sleeveless clothing.

And for women, another great place to put a Koi tattoo design in is over the hips. A tattoo placed on the hips shows off a seductive vibe. It’s up to you whether you want a large tattoo that can extend all the way down to your legs or ribs, or a small tattoo. Everything will also depend on the type of design that you want, and what kind of design the artist will be able to think of.

Koi Tattoo Preparation Tips

The thought of getting a tattoo can be downright painful and exciting at the same time, especially if it’s your first. To make sure that the entire thing is successful and as painless as it possibly could, you can do a couple of things before the process begins. Make sure that you have even just a basic idea of what a tattooing session would be like, that your body is already prepared enough for this thing, and that you’re completely content with the design you have chosen when you head on over to your appointment.

Before you can get the tattoo done, always drink plenty of water. Hydrate yourself at least a day before the session occurs. Do not dehydrate yourself. The amount of water that you have to drink will all depend on your body. Even though plenty of experts have suggested that you drink eight glasses of water a day, your body might need twice the amount when you’re getting a tattoo.

Skin that is well-hydrated will be better if you’re getting a tattoo done. The surface of your skin will absorb the ink much easier. This makes the process much faster, compared to doing it on dried, dehydrated skin.

Avoid taking blood thinners. To limit the bleeding likely to occur, you need to avoid products that can thin out your blood for at least a day, before you can get a tattoo done. Do not drink any alcohol before a tattoo session. It’s also advised not to take aspirin either, since it’s a known blood thinner. You could end up losing a lot of blood during the process.

Put on some comfortable clothes. Depending on how big or small your tattoo might be, you could end up staying there for an hour or two, or even more. Might as well wear a comfy outfit since you’ll be experiencing discomfort most of the time. Aside from that, wearing loose and comfortable clothes are needed for your tattoo artist to easily gain access to the area where you want it done. if you plan to place your tattoo in a spot on your body that can be covered up by clothes, then make sure that you wear something for your appointment that the artist can easily gain access to.

If you want to get a tattoo done on your leg, for instance, you should think about wearing a skirt or shorts, so your artist can easily access that area. And if you plan to it done on the arms, put on a sleeveless dress or a tank top.

It’s a good idea to eat plenty of food a few hours before your appointment, so that you won’t feel faint as you get your tattoo done. The discomfort of getting a tattoo is already horrible, and you definitely wouldn’t want to faint or pass out during the session.

Having low blood sugar can increase your physical reaction to a tattoo. You could also possibly pass out from the pain.

The Pain Of Getting A Koi Tattoo

For those who want to get themselves a meaningful Koi fish tattoo, then be prepared to experience pain and discomfort during the session. If it’s your first time to get a tattoo, then the mere thought of a needle passing over the skin could make you nervous. But the amount of pain involved here isn’t actually that extreme when the tattoo is done on certain body parts, since they don’t contain any nerve endings that can send pain signals towards the brain. If you have low tolerance for pain, then pick a body part with plenty of fat or muscle in it. Acquiring a tattoo on areas like the spine, the ribcage, or the top of the feet can be downright painful.

Placing a tattoo on the thighs isn’t that painful, since your legs are excellent at handling pain. There’s a good amount of fat and muscle there, combined with lower nerve endings. This is the reason why it’s the least painful spot in regards to getting tattoos done. A thigh tattoo looks very stylish, and not to mention it gives off a sexy aura. Just make sure that you put your tattoo on the outside of your thighs, since the inside can be very sensitive and contain plenty of nerve receptors. A Koi fish tattoo found on the thighs actually look nice when you wear them with a skirt or shorts.

Getting a tattoo done at the torso requires you to take plenty of breaks for the customer and the artist, since this spot is highly sensitive, and very painful. Practice some breathing or meditation techniques so you won’t end up passing out.

If you’re scared of needles, still, then you might want to pass on getting a tattoo done. However, if you could just think about the sensation of a tattoo as being very similar to getting your blood drawn at the hospital, then this is not the case. Needles from a tattoo gun do not penetrate deep into a skin like a shot does. But this doesn’t mean that it’s not painful. It’s similar to a small touch of pain, paired up with a slightly annoying but intense vibration. It feels like several needles are being dragged across your skin – And this is exactly what a tattoo gun does.

Frequently Asked Questions About Koi Tattoos

  • How do I get booked in?

After you have picked the final Koi tattoo design with your artist, then you can book an appointment. You must end up paying a deposit to secure your booking. This is over fifty percent of the entire cost of the session. The entire placement is then reduced from the price of the first session. In certain shops, this deposit is immediately cancelled in case you don’t show up at your appointment or cancel it at the last minute – Especially after the artist has started work on your design.

  • Can the tattoo artist make a drawing first so that the client can see what the tattoo will look like?

Plenty of shops out there won’t be able to create a drawing for your preferred tattoo, unless you want to really get one by leaving a $100 deposit. After you have booked the appointment, your artist will start creating your tattoo. The drawing will be presented to you on the day of your appointment – At this point, you can choose to make last-minute changes to it if you want. And if you do plan to take a look at the drawing before your appointment date, then you can visit the shop and check in with your artist. In plenty of cases – Such as sleeve tattoos, giant back tattoos and coverup tattoos, for instance, your artist will begin to draw the design right on top of the skin using a marker.

  • Can a tattoo artist copy another person’s tattoo?

You might have a certain tattoo idea that you want to do. If you have seen another person’s tattoo that you really like, then your artist might not be okay with creating a direct copy of it. After all, this is the design made by another artist that the wearer has placed thought, time, and money into it. Think about how you can take the design of the tattoo you want, then fix it to create something unique that fits yourself. And if you want to choose a pre-design tattoo, then keep in mind that plenty of tattoo shops out there have their own design books for you to pick, and you can find a whole assortment of designs listed on several websites.

  • How do I remove a tattoo?

The first steps in getting rid of a tattoo is to book an appointment with your artist. And while you’re meeting up, they can take a closer look at the tattoo’s color and size, as well as the type of skin that you have. They can also perform skin test upon consultation, so they can check to see how your skin will react. And once everything is done, they will set an appointment for a tattoo session if you decide to push through with it.

  • What is laser technology?

Laser treatment for tattoo removal can work with the help of short laser pulses that can break up the tattoo ink into smaller particles. The body will get rid of this through sweat or other forms of natural waste.

A laser technology can take out the tattoos in up to six treatments. It’ll all depend on several factors, including the size, the color, the type of ink used, as well as the wearer’s own skin type. This means that your existing tattoos will disappear in around a couple of months.

How Much Do You Pay For A Koi Tattoo?

Koi fish tattoos are actually one of the best designs to get if you’re picking a tattoo for yourself. There are loads of tattoo shops that categorize their designs according to the size, the amount of colors used, as well as how original it is. Other shops will charge their clients by the hour. So the larger the tattoo is, the longer it takes for the artist to finish, and the more expensive the final pricing will be.

And in regards to the final price, the standard tattoo can cost from fifty dollars, to one hundred dollars every hour. An original design crafted by the artist can have a price of $300. Once again, everything will depend on the tattoo’s size, as well as the artist’s own skill.

The average tattoo artist will charge their clients bigger prices for areas like the face, the neck, and the hands. That’s because these three areas contain tougher skin. And because the skin is much tougher there, this means that it takes longer for the tattoo to finish up. Getting a tattoo on these areas also takes plenty of skill as well, applying ink in certain visible areas. Plenty of novice or inexperienced artists won’t agree to doing these types of tattoos. An artist will also refuse your request to get these tattoos done, if they feel like you have made a bad choice with the designs.

Koi Tattoo Maintenance Tips

While your tattoo is healing up, it could feel a bit warm to the touch and have a reddish tint to it. The colors will also look brighter than usual, especially against the rest of the wearer’s skin. As your tattoo continues to heal up, it’ll start losing its vibrancy.

You should not submerge your tattoo in any body of water, or even get it wet during the first three to six weeks – If you really must clean yourself, then take a lukewarm shower. You can keep on doing that washing technique throughout the first week when you need to. But how often should you clean up your tattoo will all depend on your environment, as well as your current activity levels.

A person who sits in an air-conditioned office all day could only have to wash their tattoo at least once a day. But someone who works in a physically active environment has to clean it every few hours. It’s also a good idea to clean up the tattoo using your clean fingertips, and not with a paper towel or cloth. This could irritate the skin and take off the scabs that might have been formed.

A scab could show up after the first couple of days. By this time, ink might still ooze through the skin and be washed away. Do not pick on the scabs or scratch the tattooed skin, no matter how tempting. The mild swelling and redness will disappear near the end of the first week.

The scabs will slowly slough off during the start of the second week. Once again, you have to be gentle with moisturizing and washing, since you could accidentally rip the scabs and damage the tattoo’s look. Your skin will also get itchy during this week, but do not scratch it. Adding in some extra moisturizer can get rid of the itch. Cool moisturizer stored in the fridge can also relieve the irritation and itchiness.


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