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Koi fish are a species of carp (Koi is the Japanese word for carp) that are specially bred to have wild, brilliant color schemes. Interestingly, the Japanese assign different symbolic meanings to the fish depending upon the way it behaves, either in the pond or in the wild. The Japanese word Koi translates as carp, but also as love, therefore koi fish are a symbol of love (the kind of love you have for your lover, not for your parents for example). Since they are considered to be extremely energetic, koi fish tattoo designs usually have very lively colours and lots of movement.
First, koi fish tattoos depicting the animal swimming upstream may represent strength during trying times. Second, and perhaps more influenced by Western thought (the Japanese had and have a very close-knit society), is the koi fish tattoo for someone who is very independent.
Any carp able to climb to the Dragon Gate along the Yellow River will be transformed into a dragon.


Sharing much of its imagery with the Japanese for the koi's strength and determination, the Chinese koi is also associated with life-long good fortune. More often than not koi tattoos are very large tattoos, with intricate shading and colours to depict their rainbow of scales and their strong swimming motion against the current. The imagery these animals evoke in koi tattoos speaks, without any doubt, through the centuries.
Koi fish designs are also used in zodiac tattoos, more specifically in Pisces tattoos (pisces is the Latin word for fish). Koi tattoo designs are often combined with splashing water, cherry blossom and lotus flowers. Originally a ravenous pet species that stirred up silt in waterways, the Japanese have inbred them and turned them into gemlike marvels. The koi fish is powerful enough to fight river currents and swim against the stream in order to reach its food sources or spawning grounds. It takes a lot to be able to go against the tide of fate if life has stacked the odds up against you.


Proudly going against the grain, with little care for the opinions of others and society, a koi fish tattoo depicting the animal swimming through a tumultuous torrent is a powerful and personal image.
Their backgrounds are often as spectacular as the fish itself: with crashing water, suns and moons, and even lotus petals floating along.
Koi fish tattoos often represent victory despite terrible adversity: courageous triumph over a struggle.
Since koi can eat a hefty portion of their body weight every day, they were expensive to keep.



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