These are the best koi fish tattoo designs and photos that you have ever seen. A very popular, Japanese inspired tattoo design, these are stunning.
Symbols of good luck, fortune, love and friendship, koi fish are often found in Japanese water gardens and can be distinguished by their unique colors and patterned scales. The word “koi” means carp in Japanese but it’s also a homophone for another word that means “affection” and “love.” There are many varieties of koi making it easy for a tattoo artist to have fun with the design and make a truly unique piece of art for the wearer. These fish can also reach lengths of up to three feet depending on their living conditions. Koi fish share an ancestor with goldfish (no, not the delicious cracker kind) and while they may be similar in appearance, you’ll notice from the tattoos below that koi have barbels (those funky whisker-looking things).
The Best Koi Fish Tattoo Designs:
These barbels are actually covered in taste buds allowing these intellectual fish to forage for nutrients along the murkiest of ponds. It’s not uncommon to find koi tattoos that are also representative of the Pisces zodiac sign (symbolized by a pair of fish), which you’ll also see examples of below.
33. Blue Koi
Look at this shoulder piece! This koi fish tattoo is beautifully blue, but guess what? It’s a realistic depiction too because, yes!, blue koi can be found in nature. I’m not joking! As true as the sky is blue, these Japanese carp come in blue too. The line work here is really fantastic with all of the scale details as well as the fins. And take a look at that eye! With bits of gold and green, this upstream fella doesn’t want to be messed with…but admired from afar will do just fine. A symbol of strength, power and longevity, this koi fish tattoo is a mighty piece of art.
32. Two Lost Souls
The writing in this tattoo says: “We’re just two lost souls, swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.” I love the koi fish forming a yin-yang symbol in this piece around those words. It’s meaningful and beautifully done with bright, bold colors and lovely line work.
31. Crowned Koi
This tattoo is so cool and could definitely be interpreted as a many number of things. I like to think of it as a king of all koi’s, perhaps even part dragon (as koi’s are thought to turn into — more on that later). I like this tattoo’s sense of mystique and whimsy. The crown is a nice touch as it further symbolizes the strength and power of the fish that already stands for these things. I love tattoos that are truly unique as it gives us more insight into the personality of the person bearing it. Tattoos are not only works of art but extensions of our experiences, ideas and values.
30. Elegant Koi
I love this koi fish tattoo so much. It’s fun and whimsical, yet dainty and pretty. The placement is perfect for this harmonious pair. Reminiscent of a yin-yang symbol, a pair of koi is often used as a good luck symbol for a happy marriage as koi fish are synonymous with happiness and harmony. Regardless of what these particular koi represent to this person, I think they’re just lovely and I would be proud to forever wear backless tops to show off this piece.
29. Freehand Koi
Placed on the calf muscle, this upstream koi is a bold symbol of strength and success. I love how the line details in this piece make it look like a sketch (but like a really awesome sketch that’s actually a beautiful finished piece). Lord knows I couldn’t freehand a sketch to save a stick-figure’s life. The addition of the pink lotus flower makes for a nice accent in this piece, given the size and location. Lotus flowers are often paired with koi fish since they grow out of the types of ponds where koi are typically found. Just as the koi started as a little fish and grew into a strong dragon (according to legends…though if you’ve witnessed this I’d like to hear about it), the lotus starts out in a muddy pond and still flourishes with beauty.
28. Shoulder Koi Fish Tattoo
Remember when I said the koi and goldfish share an ancestor? Well, if this colorful rendering doesn’t prove that then I don’t know what does. Both bright and beautiful, goldfish are generally smaller than koi and come in a variety of body and tail shapes. Fun fact: koi and goldfish can indeed breed together but their offspring is always sterile. You know what should also always be sterile? Tattoo needles. Bam! I’ll be here all day, folks.
27. Koi Outline
Ahoy, ahoy I’ve found a koi! This design truly looks like a koi fish, from the barbels to the signature scales and flow of the body. The line work is perfect and the decision not to color this piece makes the work stand out even more. I really, really love this piece because it’s equally fun and funky.
26. Ebb and flow
Not sure what the symbol in the middle of this design means, but the koi fish here are artfully done and rich in color. Flowing right down this woman’s back, this koi fish tattoo stands out as a unique and playful piece. Interested in Japanese culture? Check out more Japanese style tattoo designs right here.
25. Gold Koi Fish
Look at the goldfish with whiskers! Err…I mean koi fish! Bright and colorful, this design cheerfully sits atop this woman’s shoulder where it’s certain not to be missed. I love the contrast of the orange and blues with those beautiful pink lotus flowers on either side of the koi. (Prefer sunflowers to the lotus? Take a gander at these 25 sunflower tattoos!) This particular koi fish seems to be swimming upstream in a waterfall; legend has it that once koi fish reach the top of waterfalls they turn into dragons! These cold water fish gain strength as they swim upstream and are apparently eventually rewarded for their struggles by being turned into dragons. If only the one depicted above had gone a bit further, perhaps we’d see a dragon!
24. Dark Koi
This koi might be on its way to dragon-hood if its facial expression is any indication…or perhaps the fish is mad because it went up a waterfall and didn’t turn into a dragon. The world may never know. However, I do know that the scales on this tattoo perfectly depict those of a real-life koi and the use of color and shading make this piece pop like no other. The dark waves surrounding the fish give this tattoo an eerie feel like its weathering a really bad storm and it’s breaking out (look at those spots!) due to the stress. Or maybe it’s just a super tough-guy koi and has a classic case of RBF. Happens to even the best of the fish.
23. Fantastical Fish
It’s amazing how the same fish can be so drastically depicted in a tattoo. A total 180 from #24, this koi fish tattoo screams color and fun. I love the whimsical, floral accents in this upstream flowing koi. The colors here transport the viewer to some magical koi fairyland and I can’t get enough. As much as I love simple all black tattoos, pieces like this remind me how freakin’ lovely color can be. Looking for a super cool sea-creature tattoo, but not feeling the koi? Check out 20 awesome octopus tattoos here.
Japanese cherry blossoms are one of the most beautiful flowers in my opinion so I love that the artist included them in this koi fish tattoo. Cherry blossoms generally symbolize hope, innocence and new beginnings. I particularly like the koi fish in this piece too; their colors are super realistic and remind me of the ones I saw swimming around in the Portland Japanese Garden. Love gardens and flowers? Take a look at 88 of the best flower tattoos here.
21. Koi Sleeve
This bold koi fish tattoo is a total work of art and I just love the use of red here! Red koi are often associated with intense love and often serve as a symbol for the mother (or other female figure) of the family. Power and bravery are also commonly depicted by a red-colored koi. The detailed scales and flowers in this piece are magnificent as well. I especially love the koi’s eye here as it really pops against the rest of the piece.
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20. Beautiful Hip Tattoo
Oh.my.goodness. I love, love, love this tattoo!! The colors are perfect and beautiful and the design is just gorgeous! Word that comes to mind? “Flowy.” And guess what? That’s not a real word. But that’s what I think of this tattoo. I adore this yin-yang inspired koi fish tattoo and now I want one. The placement is perfect. Everything is perfect. Oy, I need some koi.
19. Realistic Koi
I imagine this fish going, “glurp, glurp,” right in my face. This tattoo also reminds me of the fish I saw in the Portland Japanese Garden for this was a very common pattern among the koi there. It’s like a fish that wanted to be a cow but added in some orange spots, fins and barbels and was like golly, I guess I’ll have to be a koi instead. I like the blue/green outline situation happening here as it makes the koi’s coloring stand out even more.
18. Tiny Koi
So remember that time two photos ago when I was obsessing over the “flowy” koi? Well…now I want these precious koi instead (or, additionally). Admittedly, I thought of the sardines from Spongebob when I saw this tattoo. Right? No idea what I’m talking about? Google! There’s something cartoon-ish about these small koi, making them all the more charming and adorable. This tattoo would look great in a variety of places as well, from the hip to the back.
17. Fun Foot Koi
Would you look at this cute koi! It’s like a cartoon princess koi fish tattoo and I love it. The purple and orange work lovely together, like a sunset!, while the koi’s green eye boldly stands out. I really admire the line work around the mouth in this piece, giving the koi a more feminine look. I also like the barbels (aka whisker-looking things) in this tattoo as they flow in different directions, further giving it the illusion of being in motion.
16. Lucky Koi
How beautiful are these koi tattoos? I’m noticing a color pattern in pairs of koi…purple and blue. The colors go together so perfectly and offer a more magical depiction of these fish that are so often found in orange, red and black hues. The artist did a wonderful job here; it looks as if these were stroked on with brushes rather than needles. I’m always so impressed by pieces like this. This lucky lady gets to sport these koi fish tattoos forever, always to be admired for their beauty and strength.
15. Intricate Koi
This is a really neat koi tattoo design on the shoulder. The line work is beautiful and incorporates several flowers, and what look seem to be waves, along with the koi itself. I think this piece would look cool with just a little splash of color; perhaps some blue shading in the waves or just a small pop in the flowers. Either way, it’s a super cool design and I guess one could always just take a marker to it to jazz it up a bit in a fit of boredom. Don’t be so “koi” about color folks!
14. Powerful Koi
This red and orange koi appears to be surging through the waters with full force with every step this person takes. I really enjoy the details here from the scales to the splashes of water that looks as if it could spill of the person’s foot with a tap. And did you see the eye on this koi fish tattoo? Looks so real! I’m just waiting for this fish to come to life and be like, “hah, you thought I was a tattoo? what’s that?” *swim *swim
13. Infinite Koi
How cool is this?! A classic infinity sign re-imagined with a super cute koi fish! With every tattoo design I find, I love to see if somehow has turned it into an infinity symbol. It’s such a popular tattoo these days so it’s neat to see how people put a unique spin on it. I especially like this depiction as koi are so representative of love, strength and determination; paired with the infinity symbol, the person is reminded of these traits forever and ever and ever. I also really like the face on the koi here because something about it looks really adorable and innocent, like a cute little cartoon baby koi.
12. Koi and Lotus
Love this piece!! It’s super bright and bold, flowing down this woman’s back. This koi fish tattoo looks as if it has just plopped down with a splash into this stream; it’s wonderful. Again, we see a pretty, pink lotus flower paired with the koi who appears to have slight blue shading in its scales. I’m not sure if the blue in the scales is meant to be splashes of water on the fish or the actual color of its scales. Either way, I like how it adds to the overall piece which is great in size and scale (pun totally intended).
11. Upward Flow
This massive back tattoo really displays the enormity to which a koi can grow in real life. Another beautiful work of art, I love this particular koi fish tattoo because it looks like it was done with a piece of charcoal. The shading is magnificently done. Did you know most koi fish outlive their owners? Some can live up to 200 years! Crazy. Since they live for so long, koi fish are often passed from generation to generation in Japan.
10. Pisces Koi Fish
Look at these cute little fellas being all koi! Another pair in purple and blue, these guys represent the Pisces zodiac sign belonging to those born from February 19 through March 20. The twelfth sign of the zodiac, Pisces are fluid and easy-going, compassionate and charitable. One might even say these folks tend to “go with the flow,” much like these koi fish.
9. Matching Koi
I love coordinating tattoos like this yin and yang one, but the deep, rich colors are what really stood out to me. The placement is really unique and cool, unlike any other koi fish tattoo I’ve come across. I hope this person threw away all of their socks because it’d be a bummer to ever have to cover up these fish.
8. Tribal Koi
How cool is this tribal koi flowing along this person’s ankle into the foot? I love the bold design and unique interpretation of koi in this piece. If you love tribal designs as much as I do but you’re like ehhh about the fish part, check out 100 other tribal inspired tattoos here.
7. Decoy Koi
Is it just me or…does this look like some kind of mutant fish trying to pass itself off as a koi to get into some secret pond or something? Look at that face! That said, I do love the contrast of the beautiful flowers in this piece. They don’t look like they belong, but that’s exactly why they work. Maybe this koi is morphing into a dragon and that’s why the scales aren’t consistent and haphazardly colored in brown. Or maybe it’s a dead koi? It kind of looks corpse-like. It’s definitely an interesting piece and open for interpretation and these are all reasons I’ve included it on this very list. Let me know what you think when you look at this face.
6. Koi Fish Tattoo Shoulder
Beautiful! Another example of how talented tattoo artists are! From the line work to the shading and placement of this koi fish tattoo, it’s a piece to be admired for years and years and years to come. Swimming against the current as it heads upstream, this koi is a strong reminder that we can (and will) endure anything life throws our way.
5. Coy Koi
I love this dainty little gem of a koi is tucked under this woman’s ear. A small reminder of strength and overcoming adversity, this koi fish tattoo is simply beautiful. Looking for other small tattoo design ideas that aren’t so fishy? Look no further! Check out 88 amazingly perfect and tiny tattoos here.
4. Swimming Upstream
A simple, yet intricate koi fish design, this thigh tattoo is just really pretty and lovely. A koi fish can hold different meanings based off of the direction it’s found swimming. In this case, the upstream depiction could mean the person has overcome obstacles and gained the strength needed to continue against the current. Life can be an uphill battle, but if this koi can persist so can you! Into thigh tattoos, but koi not so much? Check out 101 of the sexiest thigh tattoos here.
3. Pisces Piece
I’m not a Pisces, but this tattoo certainly makes me wish I was. I absolutely love the color choices here and the yin and yang display of the koi. Blue koi fish are said to represent peace, tranquility and calmness while purple has always symbolized royalty and wealth. In Taoism, yin and yang symbolize the dueling sides of all things and the perfect balance and harmony of them. The circular motion of the koi represents the belief that all things are connected. A beautiful piece with wonderful meaning, this koi fish tattoo is a joy.
2. Whimsical Koi
Whoa! This design is an awesome interpretation of the koi fish. Meandering down this woman’s back, this piece is bold and beautiful in all black ink. The line work really makes it look as if this fish is flowing along in real time.
1. Three Koi Fish Tattoo
These three koi fish appear to be flowing along on what appears to be this person’s back. I like the added air bubbles, which I first mistook for freckles, and the overall design of this piece. The tails look like feathers, soft enough to touch! Speaking of feathers, check out 35 amazing feather tattoos here.
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