Koi Tattoo Meaning

For decades the koi tattoo has been very popular in the western world, but what exactly is the meaning behind a koi tattoo? Let us take a look at the history and origin of the koi, and the symbolism of a koi tattoo.

The koi fish, originally from China, is known for its beauty and colors, and also looked at as a symbol of courage, aspiration and strength. In China, it is said that any koi that succeeds in swimming through the currents of Dragon’s Gate on the yellow river, will transform into a dragon. It is this legend that makes the koi tattoo so popular, as the rivers symbolise the constant life struggle, and the koi symbolises determination to become a dragon.


Koi tattoos are often drawn with running water, and the direction of the water can also symbolise different things. When the koi swims against the stream, it could symbolise that the person is still dealing with life’s difficulties, but when the koi swims down the stream, the meaning could be the opposite. A koi swimming downstream resembles someone who have overcome their struggles, and who are free.

Here are some of the meanings behind a koi tattoo:

• Being ambitious, and driven to reach one’s goals
• Being courageous, and eager to take life ‘head on’
• Being determined to overcome life’s struggles
• Seeking freedom.
• Being fearless.

So, apart from the absolute beauty, and amazing colors of the koi, the koi tattoo represents some of the best human qualities- and that makes getting a koi tattoo worth it!

Check out some koi tattoos below: