Koi Fish Meaning – Understand the Deeper Symbolism

Koi happen to be one of the most beautiful ornamental fish species out there today. They can be in a variety of different colors and can grow to be two feet long or even longer. Today they are very popular with many people who want to add an ornamental pond to their property. Of course, if you want your own Koi pond, it’s definitely a great idea to learn even more about them. If you’re wondering about the Koi fish meaning and the symbolism that they carry, here is a better look at their deeper meaning and more.


If you want to know more about the meaning of Koi fish, it’s a good idea to start out with the etymology of the word. Koi happens to be a word that is from the Japanese language. When you translate this word into English, it basically means “carp.” Since various types of carp were actually bred together to develop these fish, this is definitely an appropriate meaning for their name.

From Common Carp to Koi

Across the continent of Asia, common carp were a species of fish that was domesticated. This fish was used as a viable and healthy source of food for many years. At some point during the end of the 19th century, these common carp in Asia were bred together to start achieving certain variations of color, which began with mutations that occurred naturally. From the breeding of these common carp, we ended up with what is now known as Koi.

Beyond the Etymology

At this point, the Koi fish meaning has definitely gone a lot far than the basic etymology of the name. It also goes beyond the story of how the breed was created. These fish are beautiful creatures and now they have mystery and symbolism associated with them as well. To find out more about the Koi meaning, you have to again take a look at the original Japanese meaning of these fish.

In Japanese, the word “Koi,” actually is a homophone. It is a homophone for another Japanese word meaning “love that is affectionate.” When you combine the beauty of these fish with the association to this other word, you’ll quickly see how the Koi started becoming associated with the Japanese culture’s idea of loyalty, friendship, and even love. You’ll find that this symbolism and meaning is found in a lot of music, literature, and art of the Japanese.

Association with the Japanese Culture

You’ll find that the Koi fish meaning has quickly become that of a beautiful and colorful fish that happens to be associated with all things Japanese. This is now the view of this fish around the world. Seeing this fish makes people think of beauty and serenity, which is also tied into the culture of the Japanese. Not only has this cultural tie and Koi fish meaning made it a popular choice for decorative ponds all over the world, but it has made these fish very popular with tattoo artists too. Since they have a message and meaning of friendship and love, that along with their beautiful colors have made them a tattoo subject.

Meaning in China

While the Koi fish definitely have huge ties to Japan, it’s a good idea to look at the Koi fish meaning in China as well. In the country of china, they happen to be associated with having good fortune. The idea that they’ll bring good fortune comes from the Dragon Gate legend. This legend is about a Koi that was able to swim up a waterfall vertically, and then it turned into a dragon. This definitely gives these lovely fish a sense of value within the Chinese culture as well.

Many Beautiful Legends

To get a better understanding of koi fish symbolism, it’s a good idea to understand a bit of the history behind these fish, as well as the many beautiful legends that exist. These fish were developed by breeding together various types of carp and one of the oldest legends is about a special carp. The legend goes that back in 533 BC when a son was born to Confucius the philosopher, he was presented with a gift. The gift came from King Shoko of Ro and the gift was a beautiful magoy, which was a lovely black carp. The legend goes that all of the beautiful koi today came from that incredible black magoy that the king gave to Confucius.

Another of the wonderful legends to consider when it comes to koi fish symbolism is the legend that occurs in Niigata, Japan. According to legend, the knowledge of koi and how to raise them was passed to the Japanese from the Chinese people. They began to raise these fish in the beautiful area of Niigata. At this time, a tough winter came along and these farmers weren’t able to get any crops or go fishing to feed their families. To make sure they didn’t starve, the farmers of Niigata began to create ponds where they could raise their own koi. As they raised the newly bred koi fish, they started seeing a variety of different colors. This made them decide to start breeding some of the most beautiful fish and those they would keep as pets for their family. Still today beautiful koi are sold to be pets and many different colors exist.

Koi Fish Symbolism

Now that you know a couple of the beautiful legends behind these fish, it’s a bit easier to learn about the koi fish symbolism. The long history behind them helps you understand why so many people love and revere these lovely fish. Some of the broad types of symbolism that these koi are known for include courage, success, longevity, perseverance, good fortune, prosperity, and ambition. Quite a bit of the koi fish symbolism has to do with the Dragon Gate legend that has been passed down by the Chinese.

Of course, you also have to realize that a lot of the koi fish symbolism has to do with the different colors of the fish as well. Various color combinations come with their own names and have their own unique symbolism. For example, fish that are solid silver are symbolic of wealth and business success. The lovely white and red fish are often symbolic of career success as well. Some of the other things that various colors can symbolize include transformation, love, relationships, riches, and wealth.

Many people believe in the koi fish symbolism and they work to make the most of the various meanings that the fish offer. To make sure that they get the energy from these lovely creatures, many who raise koi decide to use feng shui in the way that makes the most of the energy they provide. Some of these guidelines include ensuring that the water is very clean. Stagnant water is thought to lead to a negative chi and also can harm the fish. Keeping the koi in a pond that is large enough is another aspect of feng shui for koi. As long as you keep these fish in good health, they can live for 50 years or more. Legend even states that some koi have lived to be close to 200 years old, which definitely shows why koi fish symbolism also points to longevity.

It’s easy to see what a great history these fish have surrounding them. Looking at the Koi fish meaning can help you understand more about them and how they are seen in various Asian cultures. Even though you may simply use them as ornamental fish in your pond, it’s nice to know about their meaning and symbolism. If you decide to start raising your own Koi, you may want to incorporate some of these ideas and meanings into the pond and gardens that you create around them so you can really enjoy these ornamental fish.