Koi Fish Symbolism, Meaning & Spiritual Significance

Koi fish have captivated audiences with their stunningly bright colors and gentle nature for centuries. Despite their small size, they are incredibly powerful symbols that evoke a sense of strength, prosperity, and longevity in many cultures worldwide. As such, koi carry remarkable spiritual meaning that has withstood the test of time throughout the ages. In this blog post, we will dive into the history behind koi fish symbolism and consider how it affects our own lives.

What Does a Koi Fish Symbolize?

Koi fish are a traditional symbol of good fortune and longevity in many East Asian cultures. They represent courage, ambition, and the strength of will to overcome adversity. In Chinese culture, koi also represent love, health, friendship, and luck.

Koi fish signify good luck and fortune, strength and courage, perseverance in adversity, ambition, and success. Generally speaking, they are seen as symbols of good luck that can help bring prosperity and abundance into one’s life.

japanese koi pond

Koi Fish Symbolism: Color Meanings

The radiant colors of a koi are also believed to influence what it symbolizes.


A black-colored koi is believed to symbolize great struggles and obstacles but perseverance and achievement. This type of fish is commonly seen as overcoming hardships to achieve success.


A Koi with a white body signifies purity, cleanliness, and hope for the future. It’s also associated with new beginnings and a fresh start.


An orange koi symbolizes courage, passion, and enthusiasm in life. They are believed to grant strength and determination to those who display them.


The white-red patterned koi encourages balance, harmony, and an overall spirit of life. They are believed to bring good luck and protection from harm.


The silver-colored koi symbolizes prosperity and good luck. It’s believed to bring wealth and abundance into one’s life.


A golden-colored koi is a symbol of wealth, power, and success. They are believed to bring forth great luck in all aspects of life.


Blue koi represents peace, tranquility, and serenity. It may also signify the attainment of spiritual goals.

Koi Fish Facts

  1. Koi fish can live up to 50 years or more in the right conditions.
  2. They are native to East Asia and were initially bred for food in Japan, but eventually became popular among hobbyists after they developed vivid colors.
  3. The term ‘Koi’ is derived from the Japanese word for carp, ‘Nishikigoi’, which means ‘brocaded carp’ and refers to their colorful patterns of scales and beautiful finnage.
  4. They generally come in various colors, including white, yellow, orange, red, blue, and black, with some having bi-colors or multi-colored fins.
  5. Koi are omnivorous scavengers who feed on plants like algae and small insects such as mosquito larvae and crustaceans that live near the pond floor or at the surface of shallow waters.
  6. In Eastern cultures, koi represent luck, prosperity, and friendship, making them popular symbols of good fortune.
  7. It has been said that owning these fish brings happiness, which is why they have become a favorite pet worldwide.

The Meaning of Nishikigoi

Nishikigoi, which translates to “brocaded carp” in Japanese, is a term used to refer to colored varieties of Japanese carp or koi.

The popularity of these breeds has increased exponentially over the years, and they are now widely celebrated as a symbol of good luck, wealth, and long life.

The vast majority of Nishikigoi have been bred to look beautiful and showy in colors such as white, orange, pink, purple, yellow, and red koi.

In addition to the vibrant colors, Nishikigoi has patterns on their bodies that can distinguish them from other types of carp.

These patterns can include spots, stripes, swirls, and more.

koi symbolism in japanese and chinese culture

Some Nishikigoi also have large scales and come in shades of white, blue, and black shades.

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Beyond their physical beauty, Nishikigoi are also thought to represent strength and perseverance in the face of adversity. Much like the carp’s ability to swim upstream and leap over waterfalls, they symbolize determination and courage.

Many cultures also view them as messengers of luck, fortune, and longevity — all traits we can strive for in life.

japanese karp

History of Koi

Koi, also known as Nishikigoi or brocaded carp, have been originally bred as a source of food in Japan since the 1820s. The term “koi” is derived from the Japanese word for carp and has come to refer specifically to specially bred varieties of these beautiful fish.

white and black koi

Since its origins in Japan, the practice of breeding these fish has spread all over the world. The colorful appearance of koi makes them an attractive addition to any pond or aquarium, and their hardy nature and adaptability ensure that they can thrive in many different environments.

Koi were originally bred for color, pattern, size, and conformation. The practice of breeding them has been refined over hundreds of years. Japanese koi breeders have developed more than 30 different varieties, each with unique patterns and colorations.

They often feature a bright orange or yellow base color with large patches of black, white, and blue. The popular varieties today are Kohaku, Sanke, Showa, and Utsuri.

Koi Fish Legends

Koi Fish Legends have been told for centuries in Japan, China, and even some parts of Europe. One of the most famous legends is the legend of the Great Red Dragon Koi, that swam up a waterfall.

koi with red coloring

This story tells of an orange koi fish who was determined to reach the top no matter what and eventually succeeded after years of trying. This story has become a symbol of strength, perseverance, and courage.

koi with white body

Another popular legend tells the story of two koi fish that transformed into dragons when they swam up a waterfall together. This tale often represents undying loyalty and friendship between two people.

What Does a Koi Fish Mean in Yin Yang?

The Yin Yang symbol is often used to represent balance and harmony in life. The black half of the circle usually represents the feminine yin energy, while the white half represents the masculine yang energy. In Chinese culture, koi fish are seen as symbols of good fortune and strength.

yin yang koi feng shui

Therefore, when a koi fish appears in the black and white teardrops of the Yin Yang symbol, it often represents the perfect balance of yin and yang. In other words, a koi fish in this symbol is meant to represent luck and prosperity.

What Does It Mean When You See a Koi Fish?

Seeing a koi fish is often a sign of luck and prosperity. They are also said to represent perseverance, strength, courage, loyalty, and friendship. Different koi colors can have different meanings; see above to find out which meaning the different colors have.

koi positive energy

Additionally, the number of koi fish you see can have a symbolic meaning. For instance, seeing three koi fish together could represent the love between two people and their success in life.

If you see two koi fish, it could signify a growing friendship. Meanwhile, four koi fish together represent wealth and abundance in all areas of life.

Koi is an incredibly fascinating species that have been adored for centuries due to their beauty and symbolic meaning. No matter what color or pattern they come in, they can bring luck, prosperity

Koi Fish Dream Meanings

Dreaming about a koi fish swimming upstream is usually seen as a positive sign that signifies strength, courage, and determination. Conversely, if a koi fish appears swimming downstream, it is often interpreted as a warning sign to be aware of the consequences of your actions.

sleeping woman dreaming about black koi

Dreaming about a school of koi fish usually symbolizes good luck and success in the near future.

Koi Symbolism & Meaning in Tarot

In the tarot deck, koi fish are often portrayed as symbols of transformation and inner strength. They can also represent progress and determination when overcoming a challenge or adversity.

spirit animal banner

Koi fish in a tarot reading could point to positive changes in your life that will bring luck and abundance.

Koi Symbolism in Japanese Culture

Koi fish have been popular in Japan for centuries, and the term “koi” is even part of some samurai symbolism.

ancient japanese carp

In Japan, koi fish symbolize strength, courage, and perseverance, strong characteristics associated with the samurai warriors. They are also often associated with good luck, fortune, loyalty, and friendship.

Koi fish have several meanings in Japanese culture, but they all emphasize the importance of resilience and inner strength.

Symbolism in Buddhism, Feng Shui, and Taoism

Symbolism is an integral part of Chinese culture, which is evident in the three major belief systems practiced in the country- Buddhism, Feng Shui, and Taoism. The koi fish is particularly significant, as it has many different meanings in these systems.

In Buddhism, the koi symbolizes strength and courage in adversity. The legend tells us that a group of koi swam upstream against the current of the Yellow River, eventually reaching a waterfall at the top.

spirit animal banner

According to the ancient Chinese legend, the koi that made it to the top of a large waterfall was rewarded with transformation into a golden dragon. This story has been passed down through generations and is seen as an inspirational tale of perseverance and accomplishment in the face of adversity.

What Does a Koi Fish Tattoo Symbolize?

Koi fish tattoos are popular among men and women as they symbolize luck, ambition, and perseverance.

koi tattoo

The Japanese consider the koi a symbol of good fortune, so many people get a koi tattoo to represent their determination to achieve success and prosperity. Many also view koi fish as a sign of courage since they are believed to swim up waterfalls and other obstacles in pursuit of their goals.

Final Words – Koi Symbolism

Koi fish have been a part of Asian cultures for centuries, and their symbolism is deeply rooted in these ancient traditions. In Buddhism, koi symbolize courage and perseverance; in Japan, they represent luck, fortune, loyalty, and friendship, while Feng Shui practitioners view them as signs of wealth and abundance.

Koi tattoos are also popular among men and women who want to symbolize ambition and strength. No matter what symbolism you take from this iconic species, the koi will always be associated with overcoming challenges through resilience and determination.

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Christina Johnson

About the Author

My name is Christina, and I am the founder of centerspirited. Being a physiotherapist for several years I have found that many people, including myself, don’t achieve well-being only from a physical point of view. I’ve always viewed a person’s body, soul, and emotions as a whole construct of beauty. Always being a yoga enthusiast, I finally became an instructor myself. On a secret mission to capture spirituality in all of her beautiful shapes, I found myself being guided on a way through ayurvedic nutrition and lifestyle. Through this platform, I will hopefully be able to help other beautiful souls out there find their inner peace and bond with their spiritual selves.

Discover simple steps to unlock inner peace and live a life aligned with your true self.
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Your destiny is shaped by your choices, and tarot can help you make the right ones. Get your hands on our eBook!