Koi Fish Tattoo Designs For Men

Top 47 Koi Fish Tattoo Ideas [2020 Inspiration Guide]

From common carp in China to a majestic journey into Japan, meet the Koi fish. Aside from koi ponds and water gardens, these fish have quite the interesting story.

When it comes to the Koi, you’ll find all sorts of different colors, patterns and even scales.

Most notably you’ll find them in either white, cream, blue, red, yellow or black. However by far, the most popular stem from the Gosnake, which includes the Tasiho Sanshoku, Showa Sanshoku and Kohaku.

Yet, among them all the common theme of good fortune is present. But why? Well, for generations the legend has claimed that after this fish uses its power to climb the falls on the Yellow River it turns into a dragon. It’s similar to going through difficult experiences in life and having the strength and perseverance to overcome them.

Others believe the nature of swimming against the current symbolizes going against popular opinion, and being independent while having the courage to do it all.

However, in Japanese culture the koi is a symbol of masculinity, with flags of the fish being risen when a new son is born in the home. It’s also viewed as a form of love and passion.

Now, there are a few designs that have more specific meanings like the red koi, which stands for nature, strength and masculinity. Black is a tribute to overcoming change with victory. Blue, for reproduction and challenge. The dragon, which goes back to the folklore of the yellow river dragons. And lastly, the ying-yang which is a symbol of all things connected and balanced.

In these top 50 best koi fish tattoo designs for men you’ll also find the lotus flower. It’s a beloved part of nature that grows wild in muddy ponds.

Koi Fish Tattoo Ideas

Best Koi Fish Full Sleeve Tattoo Males

This is an interesting sleeve that that goes in a different direction from other, more colorful pieces. However, the lack of bright colors does nothing to diminish the quality of this tattoo. The upper portion features an Oni, a demon in traditional Japanese mythology, as well as cherry blossoms, another important symbol in Japanese culture. The black koi, placed on the forearm and often associated with overcoming obstacles, makes use of precise shading to create a lovely piece. When the two images are taken together, the symbolism of this tattoo could represent successfully working to overcome ones’ own demons. This is a great tattoo, full of interesting features and personal significance.

Yin Yang Koi Fish Tattoos For Men

Traditional Men's Koi Fish Tattoo

Tattoo Koi Fish For Men

This is an interesting sleeve that that goes in a different direction from other, more colorful pieces. However, the lack of bright colors does nothing to diminish the quality of this tattoo. The upper portion features an Oni, a demon in traditional Japanese mythology, as well as cherry blossoms, another important symbol in Japanese culture. The black koi, placed on the forearm and often associated with overcoming obstacles, makes use of precise shading to create a lovely piece. When the two images are taken together, the symbolism of this tattoo could represent successfully working to overcome ones’ own demons. This is a great tattoo, full of interesting features and personal significance.

Small Koi Fish Tattoo For Men

Shoulder Men's Tattoos Of Koi Fish

This intricate, black and grey piece uses a Japanese dragon as well as the koi fish to create a well-balanced tattoo. In Japanese mythology every koi fish that climbs up the waterfalls known as the “Dragon’s Gate” is transformed from a fish into one of these mythical creatures. The positioning of the fish, swimming up the arm, turning towards the chest could symbolize a transformation or rebirth of the wearer or prevailing over an obstacle. The use of white to highlight features of the dragon and the koi adds contrast and helps this tattoo pop.

Shoulder Dragon Koi Fish Tattoo For Men

Red Koi Fish Sleeve Tattoo For Men

This stunning piece is a great example of a koi fish tattoo. While each tattoo’s meaning and symbolism is unique to the individual, in the world of koi red is often associated with an intense love as well as strength, power and bravery. The deep saturation of the colors helps this tattoo come alive. The incorporation of other Japanese artistic elements like the waves in the water and black and grey shading tie everything together and contribute to the overall composition. The blue in the eye of the fish is also a nice touch that adds a bit of contrast to this excellent piece.

Men's Red Koi Fish Tattoo On Leg

Men's Koi Fish Tattoo On Arms

Men's Koi Fish Arm Tattoo In Black Ink

This tattoo uses black and grey to great effect. The precision and consistency of the line work on the scales is excellent and the incorporation of the traditional waves serves as a backdrop and improves the composition of the piece. The koi, swimming upstream, often symbolizes continuing struggle and sometimes represents a wearer’s feeling of swimming against the current. The use of white to highlight parts of the face adds a depth to the tattoo and the white on the scales helps in their definition and allows this piece to standout despite the lack of color.

Men's Koi Fish And Lotus Flower Tattoo

Men's Blue Koi Fish Tattoo

This is a gorgeous piece that makes use of a very interesting color palate for this black koi. The use of brown in the shading of the waves and the head of the fish is an interesting choice and helps set this piece apart from other similar designs. The yellow on the edges of the fish’s fins and the incorporation of several lotus flowers adds color and imparts another layer of meaning: lotus flowers are prized all across Asia for the way they grow out of murky water, only to rise above mud and bloom. They feature in the origin story of Buddhism and represent an individual’s enlightenment.

Masculine Koi Fish Rib Cage Side Tattoos

This side piece features two koi, one black and one red and white as well as two lotus blossoms. Red often symbolizes power and strength, and black represents overcoming obstacles. The position of the fishes is also interesting. With one swimming up and the other swimming down they form a yin-yang, an Asian symbol for the balance and harmony of all things. The red koi also has a gold coin in its mouth representing good luck and wealth. The restrained use of color on this tattoo lets the line work stand out while the use of negative space to highlight parts of the koi as well as the waves helps make the image pop.

Man With Koi Fish Sleeve And Chest Tattoos

Manly Red And Blue Koi Fish Men's Tattoo

Manly Black And Grey Koi Fish Tattoo On Back

This back piece uses black and grey shading to depict four koi fish, swimming up-stream, symbolizing resilience and determination in the face of adversity. The artist also left the eyes blank, giving the fish a more ominous look that sets the piece apart from other koi design. The way the waves appear to flow over the fish thanks to expert highlighting is also an interesting feature and is a testament to the artist’s skill. Small details, like the grass in the bottom left of the tattoo as well as the bold line work on the waves help to make this one of a kind piece stand out from other similar tattoos.

Male With Koi Fish Back Tattoo

Leg Sleeve Koi Fish Tattoo On Man

Koi Fish Yin Yang Tattoo For Men

Koi Fish Tattoo Sleeve For Men

These two chest pieces work together to create a lovely and meaningful juxtaposition: koi are said to transform into dragon’s once the climb the “Dragon’s Gate” and this is represented with these pieces. The shading on the scales is precise and well executed and the white on the highlights helps to add depth to this piece. The black background, a common feature in Japanese tattoos, allows the colors to really pop. Another interesting feature of this tattoo is the details: notice on the fish, that the background is made up of waves crashing while the dragon has roiling clouds behind its head. Attention to details like these makes for a more interesting piece overall.

Koi Fish Tattoos For Men

This is an interesting sleeve for a number of reasons. The expert shading allows this tattoo to remain captivating despite the limited color palate, while the direction of the fish in relation to the Japanese demon, or Oni, has a deeper significance. The fish are swimming up and away from the demon, possibly symbolizing overcoming personal obstacles or problems. The intentional use of negative space in this design uses the wearer’s blank skin to add contrast and allow the dark tones of the tattoo to stand out, drawing the eye up and down the arm.

Koi Fish Tattoos For Guys On Legs

Koi Fish Tattoo Outline For Men

Here is an example of a koi tattoo that incorporates some more modern techniques to create an interesting design. The use of black and brown for the shading of the fish helps the gold and yellow tones in the lotus to really pop. The more realistic style of the design is also a departure from some of the more traditional Japanese pieces. The way the shadow of the fish is still visible within the highlight cutting across the image is a lovely detail that demonstrates the time and thought that went into the design.

Koi Fish Tattoo Meaning For Men

Here is a piece that takes a completely different approach to these meaningful tattoos. This piece uses an illustrative style to create a tattoo that feels almost like a gesture drawing. While the sketch is loose and minimalistic, thanks to subtle details like the broad hatching used for the scales and the conspicuous barbels, there is no doubt of what type of fish this is. Incorporating a lotus flower adds to the composition while the water color style perfectly complements the overall aesthetic of the tattoo.

Koi Fish Tattoo Half Sleeve For Men

Koi Fish Tattoo Forearm Men

This vibrant full sleeve takes elements of traditional Japanese design and adds a personalized flavor along with a more realistic style to create a striking tattoo. The varying gradients of blue in the waves, from deep and dark all the way to white, gives a depth to the tattoo that improves the overall design. The bright golds and yellows of the Koi contrast with the surrounding waves well, while the skull at the bottom adds another color to the palate, helping make for an interesting tattoo. Once, again we see the koi swimming up and away from an image that often represents struggle and hardship while the lotus represents enlightenment.

Cool Koi Fish Tattoo Designs For Men

Koi Fish Tattoo Design For Men

Koi Fish Tattoo Color Meaning For Men

Koi Fish Back Tattoo Designs For Males

Koi Fish Shoulder Tattoo For Men

Koi Fish Leg Calf Tattoo On Man

Koi Fish Half Sleeve Tattoo For Men

This gorgeous tattoo uses different elements to create an interesting piece that stands out among koi designs. The use of negative space for the fins of the fish, the precise line work and the deep and fully saturated black in the background make for a powerful tattoo. The cherry blossoms add a splash of color and represent the fleeting but beautiful nature of life while the fish swimming up, against the current represents overcoming difficult circumstances. The most noticeable feature of this piece is the shape and design of the scales: adding this extra level of detail to the surface of the fish’s scales takes this tattoo to the next level.

Koi Fish Dragon Tattoo For Men

Koi Fish Arm Tattoo For Men Sleeve

This tattoo uses imagery from different Asian cultures to help create an interesting full sleeve. At the top of the arm, on the shoulder is a Chinese guardian lion, also known as a “fu dog”. These act as guardians in the Feng Shui tradition and many people believe they can transfer these protective powers to the wearer. The black koi swimming up towards the fu dog could represent working to overcome difficult circumstances and enter into the protection of the animal. The cherry blossoms add a touch of color and further meaning to this interesting piece. The attention to detail is apparent: notice the claw marks that lead to the feet of the fu dog and the round ball under its foot that represents the world that it is protecting over.

Koi Fish And Dragon Tattoo Mens On Arm

Here is beautiful example of the style. It is hard to find any flaws in this tattoo: the colors are completely saturated, and the shading is expertly done. The flow that is created by the swirling, black water in the background perfectly frames the fish and improves the composition of this dynamic tattoo. The shading and color gradation on the scales, from black to red to orange to white, is flawless and the white highlights over the deep black in the water adds a depth to the piece that draws the eye in. This is wonderful piece that will draw the attention of novices and experts alike.

Guy With Koi Fish Flower Tattoo On Arm

Guy's Koi Fish Tattoo Ideas

Guy's Black And White Koi Fish Tattoo

This full arm sleeve takes the familiar elements of koi and cherry blossoms and creates an interesting piece. The change in tone and design from the wrist to the shoulder imparts a dynamic feel and a sense of movement that draws the eye up and down the entire length of the piece. The darker portion at the wrist could symbolize a difficult period or traumatic experience, with the fish swimming up and away, towards the lighter, more open section at the shoulder. The cherry blossoms on the upper portion of the tattoo further reinforce this interpretation: the beauty and transient nature of existence can be experienced despite the hardships inherent in life.

Full Sleeve Japanese Koi Fish Tattoo For Men

Here is wonderful piece that stays true to the traditional style while taking advantage of a bright and vibrant color scheme. The simple design on the scales works well to avoid looking cluttered or messy while perfectly portraying these meaningful fish. The extensive black, grey and negative space swirls that form the background of this large piece uses expert shading to help the colorful fish and flowers standout. Another interesting design element can be seen in the way that the koi are swimming up one arm and down the other, forming a yin-yang that represents the balance and harmony in all things.

Dragon Koi Fish Men's Tattoos Half Sleeve

Creative Tattoos Koi Fish Sleeves

This is another, beautiful koi tattoo that uses black and grey along with dazzling color to help it stand out from other tattoos. The shading and line work on the roiling water is well-executed and provides the perfect backdrop, allowing the colors to pop. The way the water flows over the fish in places, slightly altering the color of the scales, is an interesting detail that displays the artist’s skill and imagination. The design also incorporates Japanese maple, known as the “tolerance tree”, which, in Japanese ukiyo-e paintings represents, love and autumn.

Cool Japanese Half Sleeve Koi Fish Tattoo For Men

Color Men's Koi Fish Leg Tattoo

This colorful little piece uses a more illustrative style to depict a koi fish. The variation of the scales—clusters of orange, yellow, red and black—does well to capture the patterns on the bodies of these fish. The lotus flowers, representing rising above and reaching enlightenment, add to the meaning and story this tattoo tells. The colors are all well-saturated and the bold, black line work defines all of the fish’s different features. This simple, vibrant tattoo is a good example of the style.

Colorful Koi Fish Men's Tattoos On Back

Black Koi Fish Men's Tattoo Designs On Arm

Bicep Koi Fish Tattoo For Men

Koi Fish Tattoo FAQs

What does a koi fish tattoo symbolize?

These lovely fish are an essential element in Japanese art and are packed full of meaning. Koi fish can represent a myriad of different emotions and themes in life, including familial or romantic love, overcoming adverse circumstances or simply good luck. 

Depending on the color and the orientation of the fish, different meanings can be assigned to these images. Fish swimming up can represent struggle and perseverance while koi swimming the opposite direction often represent having already achieved success and are now swimming with the current. In Japan, each koi is associated with a different member of the family. Red koi are often associated with an intense love as well as representing the mother of the family. Black koi often represent struggling and overcoming an obstacle and is also the symbol of the father. Black koi are common tattoos for people who have dealt with addiction or other traumatic events and managed to come out the other side.  

This is just a glimpse of the deep traditional meaning and symbolism associated with these remarkable fish. While every tattoo’s meaning is unique to the wearer, these fish have inherent significance, that with a bit of research can help someone find a koi to suit their attitudes and life experiences.

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