In general, koi fish tattoos are meant to represent perseverance in the face of adversity, strength, determination and the will to achieve worldly goals. These pieces are often worn by those who have undergone or are currently trying to overcome hardships in their lives. However, this particular piece of art is also frequently used for purely aesthetic reasons, as these beautiful fish fit perfectly into nearly any Asian-inspired design.
Although there is some debate on this fact, many believe that the number of fish, the direction they swim in and the colors used can alter the meaning of koi fish tattoos. For instance, a school of seven gold-colored fish is thought to bring about sudden wealth, while seven red fish and a single black one is representative of prolonged wealth that is protected from any evil-doing. To some, the direction in which the koi fish swims is thought to be an expression of sexual orientation – upstream is said to represent homosexuality, downstream meaning heterosexuality, while two fish swimming in opposite directions indicate bisexuality – while others feel that the direction symbolizes the status of life struggles, down showing that the wearer is currently struggling, while up means that the problems have already been overcome.
Although koi fish tattoos are often seen as simple pieces that show the fish on its own, some people prefer to create a larger scene. In many cases, the koi fish is depicted in a manner that is similar to traditional woodblock images. These designs frequently show the fish fervently swimming in frothy, brightly-colored water. Sometimes other items, such as flowers or seaweed, are shown floating atop the water that the fish is struggling to swim through. Although these pieces are often cartoon-like in nature, they are also sometimes done in a portrait style that shows the fish and its surroundings in a more realistic manner. Other varieties of this style incorporate unusual colors, like the water may be deep red, while the fish may be done in varying shades of black and grey.
Although it is less common, some people prefer to create koi fish tattoos that morph this creature into different symbols. For example, two koi fish – one swimming up, the other down – may be placed side by side to create a yin yang symbol. They may also be used for the astrological signs of Pisces or Libra. Libra designs may show the koi fish balancing scales, while the connected fish of Pisces may be depicted as colorful kois joined by a line of flowers.