The koi fish has a rich history embedded in the Japanese and Chinese cultures. The fish often comes in bright colours with majestic designs that have become a favourite among tattoo enthusiasts. Most men get tattoos to signify an important event or element of their lives and the koi fish is among the best designs with rich meanings.

Legend has it that the koi fish was brought to Japan by Chinese invaders. The fish was domesticated and bred by the Japanese to further enrich their bold designs and colours. The fish is believed to have come from a school of fish that swam up the Yellow River in China. The fish swam up to a certain point in the river where they encountered a waterfall. The waterfall’s current was too strong such that only one fish managed to get to the top after over a hundred years of trials. The fish’s determination gave it the new form of a dragon which was granted to it by the gods. The famous waterfall on Yellow River is now called the Dragon’s Gate.

Design and meaning

A koi fish swimming upwards signifies that the bearer of the tattoo is experiencing a challenging event in his life. A downward flow shows that the bearer has overcome a hurdle in their life. Generally, the koi fish tattoos represent determination towards achieving a certain goal, the transformation of life, love, strength, power, prosperity, good luck and independence.

The yin-yang design of two fish swimming is opposite directions signifies the harmony of two different energies while the lotus flower signifies struggle and growth since the flower often grows in muddy ponds.


Koi fish tattoos for men often come in black and blue which are depicted as masculine colours. Traditionally, the black koi was for the father while the blue koi was for the son. However, men are not restricted to these two colours only. They can accentuate their black and blue designs by adding other vibrant colours which have different meanings.

Black signifies strength that comes from achieving a certain hurdle in one’s life, just as the koi overcame climbing up the waterfall. To enhance the tattoo, men can add red lotus flowers or bright orange highlights. Red is the colour of love in almost every language with the addition of power and bravery. Orange and yellow are bright colours that symbolise fortune and wealth. Blue is the colour for tranquillity, peace, and calmness.

Tattoo location

Koi fish tattoos for men have the versatility of other bold tattoo designs in the industry. The size of the tattoo often influences its position on the body. For small and subtle designs, the neck, hands and ankles are the most appropriate locations of the tattoos. The large, detailed and bold koi tattoos go perfectly well on the back, legs, and the upper arms. Some men opt to have their full arms tattooed in detailed designs that show the fish swimming up the river and transforming into a dragon.

Men considering getting a koi fish tattoo should carry out extensive research in order to pick the best design that is appropriate for their preferred symbolism.

Check out the best koi fish tattoos for men


This koi fish tattoo design places the koi fish vertically on the arm with floral imprints. The tattoo is done in dark black ink and covers the entire shoulder and upper arm. The details of the koi fish are beautifully highlighted by the floral background giving it a distinct vibrance.


This tattoo features a mix of dark black, vibrant red and orange ink which places the koi fish vertically with its head towards the upper end. The koi fish winds subtly around the arm, with the mix of ink making the koi fish stand out from the black background.


The colourful blend of red to orange ink mixed with details of black ink place the koi fish at the center of the arm. The koi fish, in full highlight, appears to come from the background swimming masterfully towards the viewer.


This upper arm koi fish tattoo features a black ink water background with the koi fish appearing to swim gracefully from the shoulder towards the biceps. The koi fish is further highlighted with a splash of orange highlights on its dorsal scales.


The koi fish tattoo ideas behind this tattoo are quite divergent as compared to the rest. The koi fish, in red and black ink, rests vertically on a background of a colured flower with a distinct blue highlight and grayscale floral patterns amid patterns of parting waves.


This full color floral pattern is a bold gesture from tattoo ideas for men designs. The blue koi fish is seen to come out of a gray splash with a second koi fish heading towards the elbow. The two fish appear to be part of the background, with the vibrant flowers forming the foreground.


This is a two arm tattoos idea with the fish in the different arms swimming in opposite directions. The tattoo is masterfully colourful with floral patterns adding to its beauty. The tattoo spans the entire sleeves of both arms and extends to parts of the chest.


This is a monotone tattoo with a vertical koi fish resting on the upper arm with its head on the shoulder. The fish is set on an abstract background with two distinct leaves. The background extends to the foreground setting the fish perfectly in the mid ground.


This colourful tattoo stretches towards the chest and covers the left breast and extends all the way to the elbow. The tattoo falls under the floral koi fish tattoos for men category. Its differentiating feature is the abstract design on the breast plate that faces the vibrant blue koi fish on the shoulder.


This plain tattoo spans three quarters of the left arm, with a giant koi fish occupying the largest portion of this space. The dark ink takes advantage of the skin tone to bring vibrance to the monotone of the tattoo.

More koi fish tattoos for men on the next page…