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42 Unique Koi Fish Tattoo Ideas & Designs | Japanese Tattoo Arts

Tattoos are a very personal piece of art that remains with you for the rest of your life. There is a unique story behind every tattoo. Tattoos are not just a fashion statement that complements your look. Tattoos have become an expressive art form that highlights your personality.

Getting a tattoo is not an overnight decision. You have to carefully choose a tattoo because a wrong tattoo can be painful, costly, and inconvenient. On top of that, if you choose something embarrassing, you will probably have a hard time explaining it to your friends & family.

This is why we say “think before you ink”. Choosing the right piece of tattoo is very essential. There are a lot of things you need to consider before getting your body tattooed. You need to think about the size, color, design, style, and placement. Furthermore, you need to choose a tattoo that suits your purpose and something that has a deeper meaning to it.

Tattoos are often cryptic and only the tattoo bearers know the reason behind a tattoo. There are a lot of traditional tattoos that have sustained throughout centuries. These tattoos are symbolic and carry a lot of significance to the tattoo bearer and their culture.

The koi fish is one of the iconic symbols in Japanese culture. It is a part of their heritage and a lot of people use this symbol as a tattoo to represent power and transformation.

There are a lot of variations of the koi fish tattoo. Each with a unique meaning and design.

If you are deep into Japanese culture or just inspired by the tale of the dragon koi you might want to try the koi fish tattoo.


What Is a Koi Fish?

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Koi are a variety of colorful East Asian carp. Their Japanese name, Nishikigoi, means “brocaded carp.” The koi is an ornamental fish that is commonly found in ponds and water gardens. A lot of people in Aisa breed this fish because of the vibrant color.

The very first koi were bred almost exclusively in Japan. These vibrant-looking fish have been around for thousands of years. These iconic Japanese fish were actually first introduced by China when Chinese farmers used to breed carp in rice paddies.

The legend of Koi Fish

The legends of the koi fish date back centuries. The story originates from China’s Yellow river where the Koi fish used to swim against the current.

A school of koi fought the current, swimming upstream until they reached the end of the river just to get obstructed by a waterfall.

Most of the koi fish turned around but few of the bravest koi continued on their journey to the other side, attempting to leap to the top of the waterfall.

As the koi fish continued their attempt to climb the surging waters, the demons laughed at their efforts and speed up the stream to create a more challenging barrier.

Slowly the fish began to give up, one after another. After hundreds of years of trying only one of the koi fish endured. When it reached the top of the waterfall, the gods rewarded its efforts by transforming the koi fish into a golden dragon.

Koi Fish Symbolism

Because of this folklore, Koi fish became a universal symbol of endurance and determination. Here we have curated some of the best koi fish tattoo designs that you might love.


1. Koi Fish and Lotus Flower Tattoo

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The koi fish and lotus flower tattoo is a powerful symbol that represents spirituality and strength. The lotus is a delicate plant with eye-soothing color that grows in swampy conditions. In many eastern cultures, the lotus flower is considered sacred as it has religious and cultural significance and is a symbol of spiritual awakening. Sometimes it also symbolizes untouched beauty or enlightenment, while the koi represents strength, determination, and sometimes good fortune.

Just like the lotus flower that grows out of mud, anyone can overcome struggle and rise above criticism.  Together, lotus and koi fish tattoos represent growth and overcoming struggles.


2. Yin Yang Koi Fish Tattoo

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Yin yang koi tattoos represent the balance and harmony of life. The yin yang has a deeper symbolic meaning as it deals with the cosmic duality. It is a concept of duality where negative energy coexist with positive energy and how both of these energies are essential for a cosmic balance.

The yin-yang symbol consists of a circle divided into two halves by a curved line. The black half of the circle represents the yin side, while the white half represents the yang side. The yin yang symbol combined with the koi fish represents perseverance & persistence.

The yin yang koi fish tattoo is mostly black and white tattoos but if you want to add some color to your koi fish there is no stopping you.


3. Dragon Koi Fish Tattoo

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The koi dragon is an ancient tale that has a symbolic meaning in Japanese culture. The folklore goes that once there was a huge school of koi fish that were swimming against the current in the Yellow River.  Thousands of koi fought the current, swimming upstream until they reach the end of the river and was obstructed by a waterfall.

Some koi, however, kept trying to jump over it but failed. Slowly the fish began to give up after trying for hundreds of years until finally, one koi made it to the top. To reward his persistence and bravery, the gods of the river turned that fish into a golden dragon.

The dragon represents strength, power, and ferocity while the koi represents perseverance and strong will. These two tattoos combined embodies transformation and resilience.


4. Small Koi Fish Tattoo

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If you are looking for a small piece of tattoo that is intricate and carries a deeper meaning you can go for the small koi fish tattoo. The best part about getting a small tattoo is you can hide it very easily. We don’t always like to showcase things that are personal to us. If you want to keep your tattoo discrete and hidden you can take this understated approach and get a smaller tattoo with symbolic meaning.

Tattoos are a fascinating artwork but in some cultures or high places, it is still considered taboo. But nowadays small tattoo pieces have become very appealing as they are subtle yet cool.


5. Traditional Japanese Koi Fish Tattoo

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In Japanese culture, the koi fish is a symbol of determination and perseverance. Some people still believe that koi fish brings prosperity and good luck in their life. The traditional Japanese koi fish tattoo is vibrant in color and has a very detailed look defined by bold lines. There are a lot of traditional Japanese tattoos that include animals and mystical creatures. Each tattoo has a different meaning and is very significant in Japanese culture.

If you are looking for a bold tattoo design that has powerful and symbolic meaning, you can try the traditional Japanese koi fish tattoo.


6. Red Koi Fish Tattoo

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The color of the koi fish is important because each shade has a different significance. The red color koi represents bravery and courage. If you associate with any of these qualities you can consider getting a red tattoo.

A 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 color. If you want to make a bold statement this is the perfect tattoo for you.


7. Pisces Koi Fish Tattoo

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Koi fish tattoos are often paired with other animals and symbols. The koi fish tattoo is often used to represent a zodiac sign, Pisces. Just like the yin yang tattoo, you can get a visual representation of two koi fish swimming in a different direction.

This tattoo represents the balance of life and interplay of the two positive and negative components. The rich symbolism of this Pisces koi tattoo is often associated with the concept of duality. It can also represent the conflicting mind of the tattoo bearer.


8. Koi Fish With Cherry Blossom Tattoo

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Many people are fascinated by Japanese culture as it dates back thousands of years. If you are someone who admires Japanese culture or has Japanese ancestry, a koi fish with cherry blossom tattoo can appeal to you. Just like the koi fish the cherry blossom tree is very important in Japanese culture. The cherry blossom tree blooms in the spring with a splash of pink and white roses that is very pleasing to watch. It is a symbol of renewal and the ephemeral nature of life. The cherry blossom tattoo is a reminder of how short yet colorful our life is while the koi fish symbolizes good fortune and wealth. Combining these two elements of life together can create a powerful metaphor for existence.


9. Avatar Koi Fish Tattoo

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We often get inspired by movies and songs and ink a tattoo related to it to show our love and devotion towards that thing. Many fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender series are doing the exact same thing. If you are a fan of this series you have probably noticed the two koi fish from the series.

In the animation series, the Moon Spirit, Tui, is represented as a white koi fish with a black spot on its head whereas La is the Ocean Spirit and is black with a white spot on its head. Together, they symbolize the cosmic balance. If you are looking to get a tattoo that is bold and has a significant meaning you can get the avatar koi fish tattoo.


10. Watercolor Koi Fish Tattoo

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Koi fish are beautiful creatures with vibrant color that has a more symbolic meaning than aesthetic. So adding color to your koi fish tattoo will bring out the significance and true representation of the tattoo.

Nowadays a lot of people are getting interested in watercolor tattoos as it looks more appealing and detailed. A watercolor koi fish tattoo is a bold choice and will surely help you stand out among the crowd of black and white tattoo people. The body artwork looks more like a realistic painting which makes it more alluring and can work as a conversation starter.

If you are looking to get a watercolor tattoo make sure to choose the right tattoo artist as it can be a complicated process. There are a lot of details involved in the watercolor koi fish tattoo but once you are done inking it will look really eye-catching.

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