top of page



Blog Post

  • Writer's pictureMandira Antar

Tattoo symbols - Koi fish and yin yang

Updated: Aug 12, 2023

Realistic koi fish, black, grey and red with zen circle
Koi Fish yin yang within enso zen circle tattoo design by Mandira

It doesn't matter your religious or spiritual beliefs...

Yin Yang is a symbol that you have seen, you are attracted by it's sense of balance and you want to know more about it's secrets... You are in the right place! This post is about exploring a pair of koi fish representing the yin yang symbol in many designs... Why is that?

Yin Yang

In the world of tattoo yin yang is one of the top choices in designs for men and women. Yin Yang is about harmony and balance. It is about the dualities, black and white, positive and negative, good and bad, male and female, darkness and light... all forces in life that seem to battle against each other. In it's essence it represents the balance in order to keep the energy flowing. Like electricity, both poles (positive and negative) are needed in order to keep the power moving. Balancing the two opposites in our lives is what makes a person whole and complete. The yin-yang symbol holds its roots in Taoism/Daoism, a Chinese religion and philosophy. In the Tao philosophy each polarity contains it's opposite, like the day contains the seed of night with the moon hidden in the sky, and the night the seed of day with the hidden sun.

Watercolor and pen on paper
Yin Yang grey mandala by Mandira

​​Some interensting analysis on the yin-yang symbol and yin-yang tattoo meanings you can find as well in



Koi fish

Fish in general is a strong symbol of many eastern cultures, always combined with the beautiful qualities of the element of water.


Koi in Japanese means carp (γυρίνος) and is a very symbolic fish in Japanese and Chinese culture. The koi got their name around 500 B.C, but the fish itself has been around for much longer. Fossils of ancient koi date back 20 million years. One of the main characteristics of the koi fish is that it tends to swim upstream which stands for perseverance, strength and overcoming of obstacles. Traditional Japanese tattoo art has always used koi fish almost as often as the dragon as a symbol of transformation and alchemy.

The basic reason is the myth of koi fish swimming against the current in the Chinese Yellow river until it reached a waterfall (the Dragon's gate) and kept trying to jump on the top of it. After a hundred years of effort it was awarded by the spirits with a transformation into a golden dragon, the ultimate symbol of power!!

It is also true that the koi fish as a symbol travelled to Japan through Chinese invaders. For the Chinese culture the fish is associated with abundance and wealth. In many Chinese myths, the carp (koi) is considered an incarnation of the dragon that brings happiness and wealth to those whose path it crosses.

Breeding koi fishes of certain varieties in ponds is a custom for positive energy influence. Each breed or colour has it's characteristic qualities and combined with the right amount of fishes brings the desired effect. In Japanese culture, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters are all symbolised by different koi fish colour e.g. the black koi is the symbol of the father in a family and red the symbol of the mother.



Yin Yang symbol with koi fish

Chinese Feng shui is where we meet the koi fish and the yin yang symbol in one synthesis. It represents the male and female, fire and water, going with the flow of life creating the harmony and wholeness of energy. The pair of koi fishes are also a symbol of passionate love and happy marriage.

Like the koi fish that can swim with the current of the river or against it, being active or passive, having this adaptability of responding to life and it's changes, is what combines the two elements (koi and yin yang) together.

Custom tattoo design with koi fish in yin yang around the moon (Full moon and Crescent), triangles and Unalome,  Synthesis by Mandira Antar
Koi Fish-Moon & Unalome Custom Design by Mandira

Yin Yang - koi fish tattoo choice

From a tattoo designer's view, the yin yang with koi fish synthesis combines the simplicity of the Taoist symbol with the grace and beauty of the koi fish. This tattoo is equally popular between men and women.

The design can be minimal and monochromatic or rich in colour. The circular nature of the design makes it very easy to place on your body. Choosing a spot to which you need to bring balance is a nice thought! Every symbol of balance and wholeness brings these qualities to the wearer as long as you feel it! From my point of view, having this internal need and desire for transformation is the key point for this choice. Because in order to achieve any change, strength, perseverance, balance, good luck and wisdom are all mandatory. And these are the qualities of the yin yang - koi fish symbol.

Generally speaking, if a single koi fish is your choice, then you should consider the direction of the fish as well as it's colour and type. It really makes a difference if it swims upwards or downwards on your body, it has to do with the direction of the energy you want to enhance. In addition, as mentioned above, colours and types symbolise different qualities. An additional post might cover those aspects of interpretation.



Check out my tattoo page and message me for a custom design that we co-create with love and enthusiasm!

Like my facebook page to stay tuned!







bottom of page