Meaning behind a tattoo #1: koi fish and lotus flowers design

Daria Sadkina

Posted on May 08 2017

Koi fish & lotus flowers tattoo printed tightsSince the koi fish and lotus flowers tattoo was our first ever coloured design, it's only natural that we've decided to start our 'Meaning Behind a Tattoo' series of blog posts with it.

We hope that you find it interesting and educational - just as we did when we were researching the ideas for our own design, and as always we'd love to hear about the meaning and symbolism of your tattoo in the comments below!

Koi fish have a very long history in Chinese and Japanese culture, and most of the meaning and symbolism behind this fish stems from their ancient legends.

In nature, Koi fish shows immense strength and courage through its ability to swim miles upstream. According to Chinese and Japanese mythology, there was once a giant school of thousands of koi fish swimming up the Yellow River in China. The strongest fish persevered against the river's flow until they reached a mighty waterfall. For a hundred years, the bravest of these fish tried to leap over the falls until at last one succeeded. To reward this dedicated koi, the gods turned it into a beautiful golden dragon. This waterfall became known as the ‘Dragon's Gate’.

The legend also said that if a koi is caught, it will await the cut of the knife with the bravery of a Samurai warrior without a quiver.

Black koi fish tattoo designHowever, strength doesn’t always mean the power of body and also signifies our inner and mental strength. So a koi fish tattoo is a perfect symbol for: 

  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Reaching a goal
  • Completing a transformation in life
  • Worldly aspiration and advancement
  • Prosperity, good luck and a long life
  • Power
  • Independence
  • Masculinity and reproduction
  • Passionate love and affection.

The particular symbolism of a koi fish tattoo depends on whether it is going up or down the body, as well as its colour, but those meanings can vary greatly:


  • You are currently in a battle or struggle and are still fighting obstacles but won’t give up.
  • You have overcome obstacles and have now gained the strength you need to continue the fight.


  • You don't yet possess the strength to make it against the obstacles and move towards success.
  • You have already achieved your goals and overcome your obstacles, and you are no longer fighting the current.

Blue koi fish & lotus flowers tattoo designKoi fish were originally common carp and were bred for distinct colours. Different meanings are associated with each colour, such as:

  • Black koi is associated with successfully overcoming an obstacle (depression, drug addiction, abusive relationship, etc.) and is a great symbol for those who have finally made it to a place of strength.
  • Red and pink koi often has the connotation of love. Red koi can also symbolise power and bravery - qualities both commonly associated with the colour red.
  • White koi with a red mark on the head means career success, while a white koi with distinctive red markings around the mouth that look like lipstick, is the symbol for an enduring love relationship.
  • Gold, yellow and orange koi stands for prosperity, treasure and good fortune.
  • Blue koi is usually associated with men, but can also be used as a symbol of reproduction. As with anything blue, it also represents peace, tranquillity and calmness.

Pink orange red koi fish tattoo designOur Koi fish tattoo also incorporates lotus flowers. The lotus is a beautiful flower that grows out of muddy ponds, so just as the koi started as a little fish and grew into a strong dragon, the lotus starts out in a dirty pond but still becomes beautiful.

Bringing the lotus and the koi together symbolises beauty that comes out of hard circumstances and further represent pain, struggle and growth.

Would you like a custom version of our existing koi fish tattoo design or do you have your own project in mind, to treat yourself or that somebody special in your life? Get in touch with us at - we'd love to hear from you! 



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