It is not uncommon to have animals symbolize different traits. For example, the ox symbolizes diligence and hard work, the fox symbolizes slyness, the owl is the symbol of wisdom and of course, the lion symbolizes royalty. But what does the koi fish symbolize?
The Japanese base their interpretation of the meaning of Koi fish symbols on the characteristics and behavior of the fish itself.
The Japanese consider the koi to be the most energetic of fishes. This is because it is constantly moving, often churning up water. There is an ancient Japanese legend that has the koi swimming upstream against a strong river current and finally arriving at a waterfall. Undeterred, the koi continues to climb the waterfall until it reaches the top where it transforms into a dragon.
From this and other such mythical stories comes the symbolism of the koi fish.
Swimming upstream against the strong current shows great determination, will power, perseverance and tenacity. It also indicates courage, a willingness to stand in the face of adversity, relentlessness and daring to be different. Climbing to the top of the waterfall shows ambition, aspiration, vision, strength, doggedness, patience, an attitude of never giving up and finally, victory.
Finally transforming into a dragon (which is a much revered creature in Japanese and Chinese culture) symbolizes success, good fortune, prosperity and advancement.
According to tattoo websites, a koi represents good fortune, prosperity and riches. Also in Japanese culture, it symbolizes male strength and individualism. The koi represents a radical energy that does not conform to society’s norms and is not easily influenced by others.