Koi which is the Japanese word for carp has been a popular tattoo design for many years and still to this day remains popular amongst both men and women. The meaning behind it all? Mythology would have you believe that the Koi fish has the ability to swim up the yellow river and become a dragon – this of course is symbolic of ones aspirations to become something bigger and better in life. In Japanese culture the Koi fish is also symbolic of good luck and fortune.
Now that’s not to say that’s the reason behind everyone having a Koi fish tattoo, for some all it means is that they’re lovers of fish or the intricate detail of the design. We have compiled 40 of our favorite Koi fish tattoo designs to show you.
Red Koi Tattoo
Firstly let’s just acknowledge how absolutely amazing this design is! It’s the most traditional and common Koi fish which is the orange/gold colored Koi fish. It has been paired with the lotus flower which holds a lot of symbolic meaning of it’s own. The lotus flower grows in muddy waters but turns in to a beautiful flower, signifying struggle, determination and a change for the better in ones life.
Black Koi Tattoo
Here is another example of a breathtakingly beautiful Koi fish design on a ladies back. This time in just black ink but as you can see the shading work is impeccable.
We particularly like the traditional Japanese style wave shapes that people put around Koi fish tattoo designs. They are a unique way of drawing waves and give the tattoo a great traditional look. Also a lot of people choose fish tattoos because of how beautiful their scales can look when tattooed well.
The full name of Koi is actually Nishigikoi and they come in a range of colors with amazing looking patterns on them. Traditionally they are kept in ponds as pets, valued for their beautiful and fascinating appearance. Many a garden’ s appearance has been improved by having a Koi pond with these colorful fish swimming in them
Here you can see more of a modern take on the Koi fish tattoo design. Pinks and greys always manage to work well together and we love the watercolor style blots that make up the background of this design, very beautiful indeed.
Okay, wow! Even someone who doesn’t like tattoos will surely appreciate the beauty of this design. As mentioned earlier, it is quite common for people to pair Koi fishes with lotus flowers as both hold deep meaning, particularly in Japanese culture. Whilst they have opted not to color in the actual Koi fish on this one, they have colored the water blue and the lotus flower pink with yellow tips which gives it a great amount of pop without overdoing it with too many colors. Sometimes just having 2 or 3 colors total can look best.
This one looks like more of your traditional gold fish than the Koi fish but it’s definitely still got a lot of elements of Japanese art about it. Again notice the style of waves around it and the blue flowers that surround it. It’s also shaded in more of a water color style which looks really nice.
Dragon Koi Fish Tattoo
Whilst it may look scary at first sight, there is actually a great deeper meaning to this tattoo design. As mythology would have you believe, the Koi fish can later in life turn in to the dragon. This design definitely shows elements of the dragon (particularly the eyes) and as such is representing the transformation of the Koi in to the dragon koi which to a person is obviously meaningful of a change for the better in their own life.
Three is one of the most common lucky numbers to people. As such you will notice when people are opting to get more than one of something tattooed they will often opt to get three of them.
Of course it’s also worked in this tattoos favor by the three fish forming more of a circle and could be symbolic to the person of them having three loved ones in their life, such as three children.
Here is a more alternative take on the koi fish tattoo design. As you can see the person is no stranger to tattoos, already having a large skull design on their chest. Shaving the side of ones head and getting a tattoo can be seen as a big commitment by some, but of course if you end up getting a tattoo you don’t like you can always grow your hair back there and not have to see the design again!
We love the modern (but scary) take on the koi fish design. It appears to be more of a decaying fish and is most likely a representation of the persons choice to go against the flow and do things differently.
Whilst not koi fish as such, here is a great example of some similar style fish tattoos. This time with your common household goldfish. They are ultra realistic here and look like they have jumped straight out of the gold fish tank and on to the persons side.
The side of the ribs is becoming a very popular tattoo spot, particular for females as it is seen as particularly sexy and just as easily can be covered up when appropriate.
As you can tell, this person is no stranger to going under the tattoo gun. Tattoos like this full back piece can take over 10 hours and many sessions (a lot of money too) so you will want to be sure that it’s a design that you really love. This person seems to be going for a sea theme across their whole body so the massive koi fish on their back is definitely fitting with the theme and looks superb.
Whilst it can be a bit hard to see because the persons shorts are covering it, this is an example of a red koi fish. The red koi fish is traditionally a symbol of love which is definitely apparent in this design where the koi fish also has a love heart at the end of its tale. It looks like there is also another koi fish entangled with it too.
We’ve shown you a few examples of koi fish tattooed on females and here is one on the side of a guy. This particular one is a black koi fish which holds its own significance. The black koi fish represents overcoming a big hurdle in ones life and of course because of this reason is a popular tattoo design for people to get.
Here is another great example of a beautiful shaped fish on someones back.
This beautiful full back tattoo is another modern take on the koi fish. Again it’s a black koi fish which most likely means that the lady has overcome a challenge in their life recently (at least if they got it for the traditional reason). This koi fish also looks like it is beginning the transformation or rather evolution in to its dragon form.
Koi fish are considered to bring good luck and a better life to their owners, the Japanese valued these fish as a good luck symbol. This sort of endorsement coming from a culture that has deeper meanings and symbolism for almost every aspect of life, makes Koi have even more weightage. Plus the Koi have a long life when looked after properly.
They are supposed to depict bravery, strength and unrelenting determination: In the past there are tales about the courage and perseverance of these fish, which are supposed to have braved waters flowing upstream by swimming in them, leaping over waterfall so that they can be rewarded at the finish of the journey by becoming a dragon.
This one is more of a tribal shaped shark design, but none the less it is important to show how you can form the shape of a fish like creature using other shapes and swirls.
We have mentioned before our love for mixing red and black inks in designs and here is another example of just how great they can look. There is only a minimal amount of red (the stamp and the shading at the bottom of the back) but it really contrasts well with with the deep black color of the rest of the design and overall this is a great looking and albeit epic back piece!
Here is a bit of a reverse of an earlier example of where the person had a black colored koi fish with colored waves. In this one you can see two beautiful koi fish, one the typical orange style koi fish and the other – a yellow koi fish with black specks which is quite a rare color for koi fish but definitely looks beautiful and we love how much detail has gone in to this design.
Koi & Lotus Tattoo
Another great example of the lotus mixed with the orange koi fish.
We love how this one incorporates love heart shaped petals around the black koi fish.
As tattoos become more common place nowadays people are turning to getting more ‘out there’ styles done. This one looks like its going for a watercolor style effect and looks like the kind of drawing you would expect to see in a child’s picture book, all the same it’s a beautiful design.
Astrology tattoos representing the time of year one is born are very popular tattoos with this one standing for “Pisces”
Some beautiful contrasting koi fish on either foot, topped off with matching toe nail polish.
We all know that a tattoo design is more than just mere body art it signifies who you are, what you love, what you think and most important of all, what you want others to think about you. This means your tattoo design choice should be one that you like and will continue to like. Taken aesthetically or taken as something with deeper meaning, a Koi Tattoo meets all the criteria.
A great close up to show you how much detail and shading can go in to creating realistic looking fish scales.
The best part of getting a Koi tattoo, even though it has become really popular is that there are still many unused and original designs that you can choose from.
Yin yang style koi fish – representing balance in your life.
A great looking and more traditional Japanese style drawing of a warrior trying to capture a larger than life koi fish.
Japanese characters are very popular to get tattooed and work well with the koi fish.
Another great looking orange koi fish back tattoo with a blue flower on the shoulder.
Looking for something a bit different, why not add a crown to your fish to show who’s boss!
A beautiful marlin that from a birds eye view appears to be going straight through the persons neck.
The blue koi fish is considered very masculine and also can represent reproduction.
A more modern and abstract style koi fish tattoo design.
A great looking orange koi fish that starts on someones shoulder and goes over to their chest. We really like how they have mixed it up with some black scales.
A beautiful fish design on someones hand, with some really cool curvy waves.
Lastly, we will finish with this crazy looking piranha style fish design. It’s the epitome of the saying “theres always a bigger fish”.