10 Best Japanese Koi Tattoo Ideas You Have To See To Believe!

by Patrick
Koi Tattoo

Have you been on the lookout for some thought-provoking and intense tattoo ideas? Check out these Japanese themed koi fish tattoo designs and take your pick!

Japanese Koi Tattoo
@derekchungtattoos via Instagram

The Japanese word for the vibrant and energetic koi fish is “Nishikigoi”, meaning brocaded carp.

This ancient species of fish were introduced to Japan by Chinese invaders thousands of years ago. Used in garden ponds for ornamental reasons, the shiny and brightly coloured scales are a result of genetic mutation over millions of years!

The koi fish finds significant importance in Chinese culture as well as Japanese culture for various reasons. In Chinese culture, the koi fish symbolises strength, good fortune and wealth. The Chinese sometimes represent the koi fish using the yin yang symbol that stands for balance in the universe.

In Japan, koi fish tattoos have been popularised by the legend of the koi fish that transformed into a golden dragon. It is said that a school of koi fish had gained a significant amount of strength by swimming against the current in the Yellow River in China and managed to reach a waterfall. Unable to gather the strength to swim further upstream, most of the koi fish then turned back. However, some of the koi fish stayed back and persevered to complete the journey to the top of the waterfall for several decades. Finally, after consistently trying for a hundred years, only one koi fish managed to reach the summit of the waterfall. Legend has it that impressed by the determination and strength of the koi fish, the gods transformed it into a majestic golden dragon!

Koi tattoos are popular amongst both men and women. In fact, in Japan, different koi fish tattoo colours stand for different male and female members of the family. A black koi fish stands for the father, while a red koi fish stands for the mother in the family. Similarly, a pink koi fish stands for the daughter, and a blue koi fish stands for the son in the family.

Koi fish tattoos have taken the tattoo industry by a storm. It symbolises a range of things depending mainly upon colour & direction. What does the Japanese koi tattoo mean? A koi can have different meanings but mainly embodies perseverance and good luck. Quite honestly, who doesn’t like a tattoo that is symbolic of some good luck? Below is a list of carefully curated deep and meaningful koi fish tattoos for anyone who’s looking!

Traditional Japanese Koi Tattoo Designs

Traditional Japanese Koi Tattoo Designs
@calvotattoo via Instagram

This is a perfect specimen of a traditional Japanese koi fish tattoo design. A traditional Japanese tattoo artist would make a koi fish tattoo using the colours red or blue, and it would usually be in its natural habitat, for example, a garden pond. Therefore, a traditional Japanese koi fish tattoo design would have a beautiful flower or two and be surrounded by water. This particular koi fish tattoo has two koi in both red and blue facing each other. The flaming orange flowers add an additional pop of colour to this already vibrant option!

Two Koi Tattoo Designs

Two Koi Tattoo Designs
@giulia_yume via Instagram

As the name suggests, a two koi fish design tattoo usually has two koi fish, with one swimming upstream and the other swimming downstream. The fish swimming upstream and downstream depicts the constant ups and downs in life. This particular tattoo design is simple yet deeply meaningful. The two koi fish are identical in appearance and, therefore, should be easy for most tattoo artists to recreate. The Japanese cherry blossoms add to the overall aesthetics of this otherwise simple koi tattoo.

Black Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

Black Koi Fish Tattoo Designs
@japanese.ink via Instagram

The black koi symbolises masculinity and strength. It is generally chosen by people who have overcome certain hardships in life through sheer determination and perseverance. This particular black koi tattoo that has one fish is intense charcoal black with a tinge of gold that depicts the legendary koi that braved the strong currents and transformed into the mythical dragon blessed by the celestial gods themselves. It really is a perfect match for those who have achieved something after years of hard work, grit and determination and are looking for tattoos to memorialise the occasion. You can add more fantasy-based tattoo designs to this.

Red Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

Red Koi Fish Tattoo Designs
@eden_tattoo_ via Instagram

The red koi fish tattoo symbolises deep love and has a feminine connotation. The red koi stands for maternal love, power and bravery. This petite red koi fish tattoo that is perfect for the ladies is easy to make and not very time-consuming. The two tiny red koi are flaming red dotted by tiny black spots that add a contrast to the colour palette of this koi tattoo.

Blue Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

Blue Koi Fish Tattoo Designs
@d_world_of_ink via Instagram

The blue koi fish symbolises calmness, tranquillity and is masculine in nature. It is often a popular choice in koi fish tattoos amongst those who have struggled immensely with their own demons and finally managed to reach a place of peace and healing. This blue koi fish tattoo depicts two swimming koi fish in different shades of blue, i.e. indigo and violet. The background of this koi fish tattoo is made up of high and mighty waves shaded in black that highlights the koi fish and looks quite grand.

Yellow Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

Yellow Koi Fish Tattoo Designs
@yangleetattoo via Instagram

The Japanese term for the yellow koi fish is “yamabuki”. This koi variant symbolises wealth and fortune. It is therefore popular amongst those looking for financial gains or prosperity. This beautiful yellow koi fish tattoo with shades of dark orange is minimalistic yet vibrant and is sure to catch people’s attention. The waves on the side of the tattoo add a dramatic effect and make it a top pick amongst other Japanese koi fish tattoo designs.

Japanese Koi Tattoo Sleeve Designs

Japanese Koi Tattoo Sleeve Designs
@japanese.ink via Instagram

This koi fish tattoo has become quite the rage, especially amongst men specifically looking to get a tattoo sleeve. It is dark yet vibrant at the same time. The crimson, golden yellow, and orange tones against the jet black backdrop give the tattoo a bold appearance. This Japanese koi sleeve tattoo symbolises the journey of the legendary koi from being just a tiny fish to a powerful dragon through sheer perseverance. This tattoo is the best fit for someone looking for tattoo ideas that depict the many transitions of one’s own life.

Yin Yang Koi Fish Tattoo Ideas

Yin Yang Koi Fish Tattoo Ideas
@studiomuscat via Instagram

The Yin Yang koi fish symbolises the balance of nature. This tattoo has two koi fish swimming around a circle with a black outline. It is simple yet classy in a very subtle way. One of the koi fish is darker than the other and depicts the male counterpart, the other one being a female, a white koi fish. This understated yet deeply meaningful tattoo is truly a piece of art and a must-have for anyone who believes in the philosophy of everything in nature being interconnected.

Japanese Koi Dragon Tattoo Ideas

Japanese Koi Dragon Tattoo Ideas
@irezumirepublic via Instagram

The dragon represents strength in Japanese folklore. The legend of the koi fish that was able to overcome obstacles and reach the summit of the waterfall is very popular in Japan. While the koi tattoo derives its own meanings depending on a number of factors, the dragon x koi tattoo is by far one of the most popular choices because of the strong message it carries. This tattoo is the right fit for those who have attained the power that they desired and completed their transformation from a hard-working koi to a mighty dragon.

While there are many possible ideas for koi x dragon tattoos available for you to chose from, please keep in mind that this particular koi fish tattoo is elaborate in nature. Therefore, it is best to get it made as a sleeve, preferably on the legs. This would give your tattoo artist the optimal space to work with and will not cause this beautiful tattoo to appear cramped.

The black and the red colour combination gives this tattoo a unique and fiery appearance akin to that of hot lava erupting from a volcano! It would be prudent to account for the fact that this tattoo will require an enormous amount of time, patience and multiple visits to the tattoo parlour in order to be completed. However, we assure you that it would be worth the wait. The minute detailing on the scales of the dragon will require a highly skilled tattoo artist. Make sure your tattoo artist gets the fierce and dramatic look in the dragon’s eyes right while recreating this statement dragon koi tattoo. You can also add details with tattoo designs, such as the Bonsai tree.

Lotus x Japanese Style Koi Fish Tattoo Ideas

Lotus x Japanese Style Koi Fish Tattoo Ideas
@christiangronewold_tattoo via Instagram

If you’re a strong-willed woman looking to get a tattoo that symbolises your grit and determination to achieve the goals that you set for yourself, then this is all you need to see. This tattoo is the perfect depiction of feminine strength. The koi is created with a lot of minute detailing and some top-notch shading giving it a very bold look. The lotus flower drawing depicts beauty and growth and adds a feminine aura to this unique tattoo. Black and pink make for the perfect contrast. This tattoo is sure to grab eyeballs where ever you go!

Just as the koi transforms itself into a powerful dragon from a small fish through determination and perseverance, the lotus also blooms in muddy waters into a thing of great beauty. The lotus flowers in this tattoo are in various stages of blooming, giving it a very dynamic look.

If you’re looking to explore more koi fish tattoo ideas, we recommend the following list specially curated for you:

  • White koi fish tattoo ideas
  • Japanese cherry blossom koi fish tattoo ideas
  • Pink fantasy koi fish tattoo ideas
  • Fire and water koi fish tattoo ideas
  • Tribal Koi fish tattoos
  • Chinese Koi fish tattoos
  • Coy fish tattoo ideas

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