Koi Fish Tattoo Sleeve

40+ Koi Fish Tattoo Ideas & Meanings

Koi Fish Tattoo Ideas

One of the most popular Japanese tattoo designs is the koi fish, which makes it quite versatile too.

Koi fish tattoos come in a variety of colors, each with its own meaning and they are often associated with overcoming adversity.

A koi fish tattoo’s symbolism can also change depending on the symbols that surround it.

Koi Fish Tattoo

After all, you don’t want something that looks nice but isn’t useful to you.

Tattoos of koi fish are extremely popular, particularly in China and Japan.

Koi fish can also be found in home decor and aquariums.

The Meanings of Koi Fish Tattoo Colors

Koi fish are great tattoo models because they come in so many beautiful colors.

But you should be careful when selecting the colors for your next piece.

Each color has its own symbolism, so you should be very selective.

Think of why you want the koi fish tattoo.

Koi Fish Tattoo

What ideas are you trying to communicate?

What are you hoping to say about yourself?

That’s the magic of tattoos.

You can say so much about yourself without speaking a word.

  • Black Koi Fish Tattoos

In a Koi tattoo, black symbolizes strength.

Typically a black koi, or a koi with spots of black, symbolizes strength through adversity.

Black Koi Fish Tattoo

If you have had to overcome great obstacles, and want to memorialize your journey, be sure to use black in your design.

Black can also represent the paternal figure of a household in Japan.

Because black is also the color of mourning in the Western world, you may choose this tattoo to symbolize going through a period of grief or loss.

Black Koi Fish Tattoo

Your new koi companion can encourage you to stay the course, and keep searching for your own personal dragon gate.

  • Red Koi Fish Tattoos

Red is a popular choice for koi tattoos because it is the color found on the kings of the koi scene.

It is usually more of an orange-red, and the fiery shade is instantly recognizable as a koi fish.

Red Koi Fish Tattoo

The symbolism of red koi tattoos is fairly versatile.

It can represent mothers and maternal love, but it can also represent intense passionate love.

Red Koi Fish Tattoo

Red can also symbolize power and bravery, doubling down on the legendary symbolism.

A red koi is a good choice for someone passionate, who attacks goals with enthusiasm and confidence.

  • White Koi Fish Tattoos

Are you a career-driven person?

Did you just get a hefty raise or exciting promotion?

A white koi is often used to celebrate success in the workplace.

This is different from a money-attracting color like gold (see below), and is more about accomplishments.

White can be tricky in the world of tattooing because some people say it won’t stand the test of time.

White Koi Fish Tattoo

Putting other colors around your white koi may help the color look more vibrant for longer.

If you were to get a tri-colored koi tattoo, you could roll a few ideas into one!

For example, a white, red, and black koi would represent that you’ve had some obstacles, burst through them with confidence and passion, then were rewarded with material success.

A worthy story to tell in tattoo form!

  • Golden Koi Fish Tattoos

Tattoos can’t glimmer and gleam the way gold does in real life, but your artist can create a dazzling effect with the right shades.

A golden effect is achieved by blending shades of orange and yellow.

Gold Koi Fish Tattoo

The result is opulent and pleasing to the eye- perfect for this color’s symbolism.

A golden koi represents good luck and prosperity.

Gold Koi Fish Tattoo

If you want to invite some positive money flow into your life, embrace the golden koi.

Many people also choose this color for their tattoo because of how it can stand out against darker backdrops.

  • Blue Koi Fish Tattoos

Blue is the rarest occurring culture in nature.

It is impressive to see a blue flower, blue waters, or a blue creature.

Blue Koi Fish Tattoo

Blue koi do exist in real life, and they’re quite striking.

When you choose a blue koi design, you choose something unique that will likely turn a lot of heads.

Blue Koi Fish Tattoo

Blue can represent sons, but it has many interpretations.

It symbolizes reproduction, as well as serenity and calm.

Blue Koi Fish Tattoo

There are a few reasons you may want to get a blue koi tattoo, beyond how beautiful it is.

  • Pink Koi Fish Tattoos

Pink koi tattoos can look lovely, especially when paired with orange.

Pink is often seen as a feminine color, and this is no exception.

Pink Koi Fish Tattoo

A pink koi can represent the daughter in a family, but it is also a celebration of feminine energy.

Are you in touch with your feminine side?

A pink koi fish tattoo can help you embrace it.

  • Yellow Koi Fish Tattoos

Yellow is a vibrant color that is also associated with happiness.

A yellow koi fish tattoo, on the other hand, may have a variety of meanings.

Yellow Koi Fish Tattoo

A gold-toned koi fish tattoo can represent success and happiness in life.

A bright yellow koi fish tattoo, on the other hand, may reflect the peace of mind, and optimism.


A koi tattoo swimming upstream means you are facing challenges head-on, ready to fight.

When a koi fish is tattooed swimming upstream, it symbolizes perseverance.

A koi swimming downstream means you have already faced the obstacles and are celebrating your success.

A tattoo of a koi fish swimming downstream can also symbolize independence

Or it could mean you’d rather live a simple life without any major obstacles and have a laid-back attitude toward goals.

Main Themes

Within the koi tattoo umbrella, there are certain styles that people may request.

This altars the symbolism of a koi tattoo.

You can enhance your koi fish design by including other symbols.

Some people choose to have dragons or a yin yang symbol accompanying the fish, which would have the same meaning as above, just styled differently.

Other popular symbols can accompany the koi, clarifying your intended symbolism.

  • Dragon Koi Tattoos

According to the legend, some koi were once swimming against the current in the Yellow River.

Some koi fish shied away from the raging waters and the sheer height of the waterfall.

They chose a smooth, carefree existence in which they could float with the current.

Koi Dragon Tattoo

Some of the more tenacious koi fish decided to stick it out.

This goes on for 100 years before a koi eventually reaches the top.

Koi Dragon Tattoo

The gods, pleased with this koi fish’s efforts, turn him into a golden dragon.

Sometimes, a person will choose a koi that’s already on its way to becoming a dragon.

In this case, the koi dragon tattoo represents your higher self.

Koi Dragon Tattoo

If you know who you want to be and are ready to make sacrifices for it, this is the tattoo for you.

  • Tebori Koi Fish

The art of tebori tattooing dates back to Japan’s Edo era (1603-1868), and it is still practiced today.

Tebori means ‘hand carving’ and the term derives from the Japanese technique of woodblock carving.

Tebori Koi Fish

This method of tattooing takes far longer than using a tattoo machine, but the colors come out brighter and the healing process is faster.

If you’re interested in an authentic Japanese tattoo design look no further than tebori koi fish.

  • Yin Yang Koi Fish Tattoos

The Yin Yang is about the dual forces that make up the world we live in.

Koi can be designed as a yin yang symbol, swimming around each other in opposite colors.

Yin Yang Koi Fish Tattoo

This design means you are living in harmony with life or seeking to.

The yin and yang koi fish tattoos represent both the harmony of the universe and the balance in life.

Yin Yang Koi Fish Tattoo

It also reflects power, since being able to balance the good and bad in life requires strength.

A yin yang koi fish tattoo may be done in black and white, or complimentary opposite colors like red and blue.

  • Koi Fish with Lotus Flower Tattoos

Lotus flowers are pure and beautiful, but they rise from murky depths.

Lotus can thrive in a variety of climates and conditions.

Koi Fish with Lotus Flower Tattoo

Koi fish tattoos paired with lotus tattoos symbolize triumph and the ability to persevere in difficult circumstances.

And the colorful lotus will give your tattoo design a powerful punch!

  • Koi Fish with Cherry Blossoms Tattoos

This flower is commonly used as a background piece for Japanese tattoos.

Cherry blossom tattoos represent purity, femininity, and the fragility of life.

Koi Fish with Cherry Blossoms Tattoo

To stay pure-hearted and sweet in the face of adversity is an amazing feat.

Is this something you’d like to emulate?

  • Small Koi Fish Tattoos

A big, bold Koi fish tattoo is always a sight to behold.

Small Koi Fish Tattoo

If that isn’t your style, don’t let that stop you from getting a small koi tattoo.

Even a tiny, understated tattoo can be eye-catching.

Small Koi Fish Tattoo
  • Kintaro & Koi Fish Tattoos

The legend of Kintaro, who is often referred to as Golden Boy, has fascinated many.

Though the real-life character, Sakata Kintoki, was a samurai in the Heian period who served Minamoto no Yorimitsu, his stories have become more fictionalized over time.

Kintaro Tattoo

As a child, stories go that he was raised in the mountains by an old woman.

He had extraordinary strength as well as the ability to communicate with wildlife.

Kintaro Tattoo

One day, while hunting for koi, he jumped into a river and wrestled with the fish until it finally gave up.

Nowadays, during the Children’s Day holiday in Japan, kids are offered a Kintaro doll to inspire in them the strength and bravery of Kintarō.

Kintaro Tattoo
  • Koi Fish Sleeve Tattoos

Sleeve tattoos are a great way to tell a compelling story, allowing the tattoo artist to blend and combine different concepts and themes from Japanese mythology.

Koi Fish Sleeve Tattoo

You can opt between a full koi sleeve tattoo or a half sleeve, in case you want to hide it.

Koi Fish Sleeve Tattoo

When done correctly, these koi sleeve tattoos look incredible, so make sure you find a reputable artist who knows how to practice this art.

Koi Fish Tattoo Placement

When considering your koi tattoo, you should consult with an expert.

Depending on how much detail you’d like around your koi tattoo, you may need to find a large piece of your body to house the design.

Decide which direction you’d like your tattoo to swim toward based on the symbolism below.

You’ll need room to portray this properly.

Lastly, think of why you’re getting your tattoo.

If it’s a symbol of strength, try your bicep.

If it’s to commemorate an experience that’s behind you, your back may be a good choice.

A tattoo for someone you love could make an excellent chest piece.

  • Koi Fish Forearm Tattoos
Koi Fish Forearm Tattoo
  • Koi Fish Back Tattoos
Koi Fish Back Tattoo
  • Koi Fish Thigh Tattoos
Koi Fish Thigh Tattoo


A koi tattoo can symbolize just about anything, thanks to its many colors.

It may be a popular design, but it’s classic, not clichéd.

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