60 Stunning Koi Fish Tattoo Ideas that are Both Traditional and Unique – Meanings and Designs

By: Pacho Pacho Last updated: Feb 12, 2024

If you love this ornamental Japanese fish, you may be looking for the best koi fish tattoos. These beautiful fish have many fans all over the world. If you love them, you may want to pick out your own koi fish tattoo. Thanks to the many colors and patterns, you can easily get a tattoo of a koi fish that is uniquely yours. Many artists also have experience with these fish, since they are one of the traditional tattoo subjects in chinese and japanese culture. Read on to get ideas for your unique tattoo, and don’t be afraid to get creative so you love this permanent piece of art.

60 Unique Koi Fish Tattoos to Inspire You

Koi tattoos are one of the traditional subjects of Japanese tattooing. Koi frequently mean perseverance thanks to a legend about a koi swimming up a waterfall and becoming a dragon. Koi swimming upstream means you are trying to overcome a struggle or have succeeded while swimming downstream means you don’t have the strength to overcome an obstacle or you have already beaten it and don’t need to keep fighting. Different colors of koi have their own meaning, as well as what symbol you pair it with. Be sure to do your research before you decide on a design.

1. Red Koi Swimming Upstream with Leaves Koi Fish Tattoos

Koi Fish Tattoos

This lovely tattoo of a koi fish is traditionally Japanese in style. It features a red koi swimming upstream. Red koi fish tattoo can symbolize a strong love, power, or bravery. Red koi can also refer to a woman or mother since the red koi is used to signify them during certain celebrations.

2. Black Koi Swimming Upstream with Flowers Koi Fish Tattoos

Koi Fish Tattoos

This tattoo of a koi fish features a black koi fish swimming against the current. Black koi fish are used to indicate that you have overcome a struggle. They also indicate the father in a family on Children’s Day in Japan.

3. Blue Koi Fish Swimming Upstream with Lotus Koi Fish Tattoos

Koi Fish Tattoos

Some symbols combine well with koi tattoos. Lotus flowers tend to also indicate overcoming adversity, much like a lotus creates beauty from a dirty pond. Blue koi fish can mean masculinity, reproduction, or typical meanings of blue such as tranquility.

4. Orange Koi Swimming with the Current Koi Fish Tattoos

Koi Fish Tattoos

Swimming downstream is less common in koi tattoos since it either means you overcame a trial and don’t need to struggle or you failed in your attempt. Be careful and know your meanings when you get a traditional tattoo of a koi fish like this.

5. Blue Koi Swimming Upstream and Oni Mask Koi Fish Tattoos

Koi Fish Tattoos

This is another blue koi fighting the current surrender by lotus flower. The oni or demon mask can have many meanings. It can be protected from evil, or symbolize having a new level of strength. It may also symbolize someone becoming evil, so be cautious.

6. Sanke Pattern Koi Swimming Upstream Koi Fish Tattoos

Koi Fish Tattoos

This tattoo of a koi fish utilizes a real pattern found in koi fish for the subject. The Showa Sanke Pattern is a white base with orange and black. Feel free to use real koi patterns if you don’t want a color meaning.

7. Golden Koi Swimming Upstream with Lotus Koi Fish Tattoos

Koi Fish Tattoos

This is a golden koi fighting the current. In the original legend, the fish was turned into a golden dragon to reward its determination. Golden koi means wealth and prosperity in general. These tattoos use orange and yellow to create the golden color.

8. Blue Koi Swimming Upstream with Dragon Koi Fish Tattoos

Koi Fish Tattoos

This is a great tattoo of a koi fish to show off this ancient legend. A blue koi fights the current, and a green dragon is above on the shoulder and back. This tattoo of a koi fish is great for anyone who has come out stronger after a struggle.

9. Blue Koi Fighting Against the Current Koi Fish Tattoos

Koi Fish Tattoos

This is a blue koi fighting to swim upstream to reach the waterfall. A blue koi like this can mean masculinity or refer to a son on Children’s Day. It can also mean peace or tranquility, which some people do need to struggle to achieve.

10. Black Koi Over Whole Torso


This impressive piece blends into the whole of the chest and upper arms. This style of the tattoo of a koi fish was designed to be hidden under typical clothing such as a t-shirt. Black koi and lotus flower like this can show you have beaten a struggle.

11. Red Koi Swimming Up the Stream Fish Tattoos

Fish Tattoos

This is a lovely red koi. Red koi can symbolize intense love or power. Be sure you consider color when you are picking your koi tattoo. The color can change the meaning.

12. Blue and Golden Koi with Cherry Blossoms Fish Tattoos

Fish Tattoos

Having two koi fish can allow you to have two meanings with your colors. Golden koi indicates prosperity, while the blue may mean peace. The cherry blossoms also typically indicate the fleetingness of life.

13. Golden Koi Fighting the Current Fish Tattoos

Fish Tattoos

This is another great example of the options with the golden color of koi tattoos. This means prosperity or wealth. If you fought against debt or poverty, this can be a great option for you.

14. Green Koi with Cherry Blossoms Fish Tattoos

Fish Tattoos

Green koi like this is much less common than other colors. It doesn’t have a set meaning, but you can use what green typically means for you. The cherry blossoms can refer to how quickly life can slip away.

15. Blue Koi and Samurai Helmet Fish Tattoos

Fish Tattoos

This blue koi is accompanied by the helmet and face mask traditionally worn by samurai. The blue can mean masculinity, while the samurai helmet can refer to a warrior’s spirit. Combined, this tattoo of a koi fish means that you will fight back.

16. Golden Koi Over a Woman Fish Tattoos< /h3>

Fish Tattoos

This lovely tattoo of a koi fish features two golden koi over a woman with Cherry blossoms separating them. The koi refers to prosperity. The woman is wearing a traditional Japanese kimono, giving this tattoo of a koi fish a strong Japanese feeling.

17. Red Koi with Autumn Leaves Fish Tattoos

Fish Tattoos

A red koi like this can mean power, bravery, or an intense love that you are fighting for. The falling leaves place this in autumn. It can also refer to life fading away much like the greenery fades and dies as winter approaches.

18. Golden Koi Swimming with the Current Fish Tattoos

Fish Tattoos

This golden koi is facing downwards. This can mean that you have either failed at a goal or no longer need to struggle. Given that this one is golden, it can mean you have enough wealth to be comfortable for the rest of your life or that you have given up the pursuit of money.

19. Black Koi with Lotus Flowers Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

This black koi has yellow shading and has two lotus flowers around it. The black can mean success, while the lotus refers to overcoming a trial and rising above your circumstances. With the yellow, this can mean achieving career or educational success that you had to fight for.

20. Orange Koi Fish Full Sleeve Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

This amazing sleeve uses an orange koi as its base. Real koi do come in solid orange, though it is not a color that is prized. Koi tattoos are great for full sleeves since the details of the water or additions like flowers can fill out space easily.

21. Red Koi with Japanese Maple Leaves Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

This red koi is swimming upstream while maple leaves float by. Red can mean passionate love or power. The maple leaves are shown in several colors, which can indicate the change of the seasons.

22. Black Koi with Cherry Blossoms Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

Koi Fish Tattoo Designs

This black fish likely means success thanks to the color. The cherry blossoms can refer to the fragility of life. This is a great tattoo of a koi fish for anyone who has survived, such as a cancer survivor.

23. Red Koi Swimming Downstream with Lotus Koi Tattoo

Koi Tattoo

This red koi is going with the current. This can mean that you have succeeded in your goal, such as success in love. The lotus can indicate that you have made something amazing out of humble circumstances, much like a lotus growing out of a muddy pond.

24. Black Koi Swimming Upstream with Golden Outline Fish Tattoo Designs

Koi Tattoo

This unique take picks out the body of the koi with a golden outline. This means success in gaining wealth or prosperity and continuing onward. If your water background is black, this idea is a great way to show success in your goal, just outline the appropriate color.

25. Red Koi with Cherry Blossoms Going Downstream Fish Tattoo Designs

Fish Tattoo Designs

This is another tattoo of a koi fish that could indicate success or even failure. Red koi means love or power while heading down is either success where you don’t need to continue or failure. The cherry blossoms could refer to a loved one losing their fight.

26. Black Koi Swimming Upstream with Blue Lotus Fish Tattoo Designs

Fish Tattoo Designs

This features another black koi with yellow edging. This can mean success in a career or in attaining prosperity. The lotus can mean coming from a humble background. Combining meanings like this can make for a better tattoo.

27. Red Koi and Japanese Maple Leaves Fish Tattoo Designs

Fish Tattoo Designs

This is a red koi swimming against the current. This can mean fighting for love, particularly one that lasts thanks to the multiple colors of maple leaves that can indicate the passage of time.

28. Blue and Black Koi with Gold


This is a seemingly triumphant tattoo. The koi is both black and seems to be turning gold. This can mean achieving your goals to the point you don’t need to struggle anymore. Using lighting like this can help define your tattoo’s meaning.

29. Red Koi with Arrows and Mask


This is an interesting take on this style of tattoo. The koi had been hit with arrows, which can mean that someone tried to sabotage you and failed. If you want to drive this message home, showing the koi turning into a dragon can help.

30. Monochrome Koi with Cherry Blossoms


Monochrome tattoos are very uncommon in traditional Japanese tattoos since you end up missing out on the additional meaning of the color. This one includes numbers underneath, which can help commemorate what you overcame.


31. Golden Koi with Lotus Flowers


This lovely tattoo of a koi fish features a golden koi with lotus blossoms and there is only one koi fish in the tattoo. Gold koi means prosperity or wealth, while lotus blossoms refer to humble origins. If you made your own fortune, this would be a great tattoo of a koi fish option for you.

32. Small Monochrome Goldfish on Wrist


While goldfish are related to koi, they are not koi. This particular option is modeled after one of the goldfish bred to have very long and full tail fins. If you happen to keep fancy goldfish, this can be a good tattoo.

33. Long Finned Goldfish in a Pond


This lovely tattoo of a koi fish looks like you’re gazing down at a fancy goldfish in a pond. Goldfish were traditionally raised in ponds since they require very large amounts of water for even a single fish. This scene is a lovely option if you love this classic pet fish.

34. Oranda Goldfish in Ink Painting Style


The style of this tattoo of a koi fish looks much like the traditional art style of Japan. This looks most like an oranda goldfish, which is one of the many fancy breeds of this fish. If you own a fancy goldfish like this, your pet can make a model.

35. Two Veiltail Goldfish on an Arm


These two goldfish look most like the long-tailed veiltail variety. These fish aren’t easy to keep thanks to the long, delicate fins. The two fish show both a side view and the view from above, which helps fill the space nicely.

36. Black and Red and White Koi Fish and Gold Koi


These two yin yang koi fish seem to face off. Their color palettes are opposite along with their positioning. This places them as opponents compared to the more typical yin-yang positioning where yin yang koi fish are opposite but equal and in balance.

37. Two Long Tailed Goldfish in a Pond


This lovely black and white tattoo of a koi fish show two fish swimming towards each other. The long fins are elegant. If you keep goldfish or like white koi fish, this can be a great tattoo idea for you. You can easily use whatever breed you prefer.

38. Blue Goldfish and Red Goldfish in a Pond


These two delicately colored fish are a lovely contrast. The fact that the outline is mainly what shows the color gives them a delicate feel common in the most fragile varieties of goldfish.

39. Long Finned Fish Swimming Through Triangle


This is a lovely tattoo of a koi fish with a minimalist touch in the additional elements. The fish could be a goldfish or a betta. This is a great idea if you don’t want a traditional fish tattoo.

40. Two Small Koi with Cherry Blossoms Yin Yang Koi Fish

Yin Yang Koi Fish

This small tattoo of a yin yang koi fish is a good option if you don’t want a huge tattoo like many of the other options on this list. The fish are entwined in a position that mimics the yin-yang traditional positioning. This indicates balance.

41. Black Fancy Goldfish From Behind


This is a lovely example of one of the many fancy breeds of goldfish. This one is solid black with beautiful work to show the transparency of the fins. If you keep goldfish, this is a great tattoo option.

42. Black and Red Koi Swimming Upstream


This tattoo of a koi fish proves you can have a traditional tattoo of a koi fish without needing to take up your whole arm. The black koi means success, and the red can mean power or love. This is a great tattoo for anyone who has survived.

43. Geometric Monochrome Koi Tattoo Design


This tattoo of a koi fish uses the traditional posing of a koi tattoo in a new style. This unique style gives it a feeling unlike anything else. Two koi like this means balance. The moon and stars can imply that these fish are among the stars.

44. Tiny Lionhead Goldfish on Hand


This is a lovely tattoo with delicate shading. It shows a traditional variety of goldfish in one of the most common colors. You can use a tattoo like this to commemorate a beloved pet. Given goldfish can live for decades, many owners become very attached to their pets.

45. Blue and Orange Fish Around Pisces Constellation


This is a great tattoo for anyone born under this sign. The elegant fish are reminiscent of koi, and the opposing colors help to give this tattoo a nice contrast. You could use your favorite fish with this design, or use the meanings of koi with it.

46. Two Swirling Fish with Sections of Color


This is an interesting way to add color to a pretty basic tattoo design. The color is only found on the parts of the fish within the triangle frame. This is a great way to add color and you could use this idea with any tattoo concept you like.

47. Four Koi with Different Patterns


This is a great showcase of the many patterns koi can come in. Each of the four fish has its own pattern. This could easily be based on real fish and is a great way to commemorate beloved pets. Given that koi can live for decades and they can be very friendly with their owners, people get very attached to their koi.

48. Blue and Purple Fish Swimming into Each Other


This beautiful tattoo is a more modern take on a traditional tattoo design. The two fish have complimentary colors and are swimming into each other in a way that typically refers to balance. The circles in the background help continue the round forms.

49. Blue Fish with Abundant Tail Fin


This lovely tattoo looks most like a betta fish given the blue color and the generous tail fin most commonly seen in this species. The shading is very well done to show the transparency of the fins. The triangle and dots help balance the large tail.

50. Two Swirling Goldfish and Flowers


This is a lovely tattoo that is still feminine thanks to the delicate flowers. The fish swim together in a position that tends to symbolize balance. You can easily pick your own flowers or add color.

51. Tiny Koi with Trailing Fins


This is a very nice tattoo for anyone who loves to watch these amazing fish. It looks like a koi with trailing fins swimming through a pond. The style evokes a watercolor painting and makes it feel elegant.

52. Koi with Lotus and Cherry Blossoms


This is a traditional look even though it is missing the color. The lotus means humble beginnings, while the cherry blossoms refer to how fleeting life is. It is a good reminder not to waste the precious time you have in this world.

53. Tiny Koi Swimming Along with Hand


This is a unique hand tattoo for anyone willing to get one. The tiny fish and bubbles follow a line that implies your hand is a pond or river. It is a delicate tattoo that is best for those who are proud to show off their tattoos.

54. Two Goldfish on Separate Wrists


This is a unique tattoo that covers both wrists. Each goldfish is the same breed, but they face opposite directions. Feel free to use your favorite breed of goldfish or add color to make the design pop.

55. Blue and Red Koi on Wrist

dragon koi tattoo

This is a fish swimming downwards on an arm. While it isn’t in a traditional style, still be aware of the typical meanings of these tattoos. The red fins help make the blue stand out. Using contrasting colors will help your tattoo pop.

56. Tiny Orange Goldfish from Above

dragon koi

This tattoo is like looking down on one of the fancy goldfish from above. If you own goldfish in a pond, this can be a great way to show your pet off forever. The detail is outstanding on this option. Be sure your artist is capable of it before you hire them.

57. Red and Blue Fish Over Pisces Constellation

dragon koi

This is another great option for a Pisces tattoo. The bold colors help create contrast and the positioning of the stars make it a more subtle constellation tattoo. The trailing fins make it an elegant tattoo.

58. Green Patterned Fish with Long Fins

dragon koi

This fish doesn’t resemble any real fish. It has long black fins that swirl in the water. The back of the fish is green with a swirling pattern instead of scales. It most resembles a cartoon fish. You could get a cartoon fish you like for your tattoo.

59. Two Swirling Koi in Pisces Tattoo

dragon koi fish tattoo

This is another great constellation tattoo that uses very recognizable koi with more traditional coloring. The sketchy style gives it a visual appeal not commonly seen in koi tattoos. Don’t be afraid to go a bit wild with the styling.

60. Two Goldfish Under a Moon

dragon koi fish tattoo

This is an interesting take on a celestial tattoo. The moon is framed with a splash of water with two black goldfish underneath. Circles and linework join the two parts into a cohesive whole. Using background lines like this can help meld even seemingly mismatched ideas.

60 Vibrant Koi Fish Tattoos Idea for Your Next Piece

As you can see, koi and fish tattoos come in a large variety. You can go with a traditional Japanese style of tattoo, or take it in a more realistic direction. You can even dip into fantasy or related fish. Focus on the elegant movement of the fins and you are sure to have a wonderful tattoo. Remember to check that your artist can do your selected style. Both traditional tattoos and more abstract styles aren’t easy for someone without practice. Ask to see previous examples of their finished work on the skin to be sure you will be happy with your final tattoo. Go out and have fun with your koi fish tattoo design.


About the AuthorPacho

Based in Miami, FL and I’m a tattoo artist. I work hard and learn new techniques every day to improve my tattooing skills.On my website, you will find an amazing tattoo collection which I use myself too for inspiration and help my clients to find the perfect piece of masterwork.Learn more about Pacho here.