Koi Fish History Explained and Meaning

Found in both Chinese and Japanese culture, koi fish is one of the most significant symbols. They are the favorites of pond and aquarium enthusiasts worldwide. Also, they have a strong symbolic meaning and rich history.

Koi fish is common in Feng Shui and depicted on the artwork, tattoos, and clothing. By understanding the koi history and meaning you can know why people adore this beautiful fish so deeply.

Koi fish history

Vibrant, graceful, and one of the most popular fish in the world, the koi is a legendary fish. The koi are native to Asia and Central Europe where people bred them for centuries for food. Koi is water-tolerant and hard.

This is the reason why they were the best option for breeding. Several records of koi being used by people as a food date back to the 5th century BC in China. Eventually, it spread throughout Asia including Japan.

Often koi is associated with Japan, but it originated in China. And, they were introduced by the Chinese invaders. While the fish got their name about 500 BC, koi has been around for a long time.

Even fossils of koi date back to 20 million years ago. The genetic mutation that happened naturally brought these wonderful color patterns in koi that you see today.

The hardiness of the koi fish made it favorable for the people living in cold areas to breed. As such, it became a favorite fish for the people. They were bred for food.

Koi has an excellent oily fat content and it was the perfect supplement for the natives of the Honshu Island. They ate a heavy rice diet with koi fish. The rice farmers used to breed koi on the ponds close to their paddy field.

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The koi fish legend

An ancient tale narrates about a shoal of koi swimming upstream on the Yellow River. The main goal for each of them was to make their way through the water current and reach the waterfall that was invaded by the demons.

Gaining strength by going against the current, they swam through the river. After they reached the waterfall, most koi turned back. A few remaining koi made strong efforts and refused to give up.

They tried and tried but to no avail. The local demons caught hold of their attempts and mocked them. They even heightened the waterfall. After hundred years of constant leaping, one koi made it to the top of the waterfall.

Because of the determination and perseverance of the koi, the Gods turned it into a golden dragon. Dragons symbolize strength and power.

Koi fish meaning

Koi fish is a legendary fish. Many attributes of the fish symbolize important lessons and trials an individual encounters in life. It has an energetic and powerful life force.

And, demonstrated by its power to swim against water currents, even upstream. Here are some of the characteristics associated with koi fish.

  • Prosperity
  • Success
  • Longevity
  • Good fortune
  • Ambition
  • Courage
  • Perseverance

Koi fish represent positive imagery. They are considered symbols of perseverance and strength because of their strong determination to go upstream. The koi fish symbolizes bravery by swimming upstream.

So, they are often associated with the Samurai Warriors of Japan. The high sense and integrity of the fish make them a popular choice for tattoos both in the US and Asia.

What is the meaning of koi?

The Japanese name for carp is called koi. The word koi describes the adorned, bright-colored fish and the muted colors that you find on the classic carp. When the word is used in Japanese, it refers to both the colorful aquaculture carp and wild carp.

In Japanese culture, the word koi represents care and love. And, they are associated with love and friendship.

What does the koi fish color mean?

Koi fish are symbolized depending on their colors. Certain colors on their body denote certain aspects and outcomes in one’s life. The Kohaku Koi has a white body with red spots. And, it symbolizes achievement or success in a career.

The Kumonryu koi has two different variants. In one variation you get a white body koi with black spots. And, the other variation consists of a full black body. The Kumonryu koi represents life changes and the transitions that follow.

The Ogon is a silver-colored koi that denotes wealth and success in business. The Kuchibeni koi has white and red patches all over the body. Also, they are often called the ‘lipstick’ fish. That’s because of the red coloring around the mouth.

It appears that the fish has lipstick around its mouth. The Kuchibeni koi represent a long-lasting relationship and deep love. The Yamabuki koi is golden in color and represents wealth and riches.

There was not much of a color variation among koi when they were bred for food throughout Asia. During the early 1800s, more color patterns began to propagate among fish enthusiasts.

What is Yin Yang koi fish?

The yin yang symbol has a significant place in Feng Shui. And, the koi fish is tied to this symbol. The white and black teardrops of the yin yang symbol represent two koi fishes, one male, and another female.

This teardrop symbol is the constant watchful eye of koi. Moreover, the pairing of koi fish can be seen other than the yin yang symbol. A pair of koi is used as a lucky symbol for happy marriages.

The koi represent happiness and harmony. The yin yang symbol creates a perfect balance between positive and negative energy.

Feng Shui and koi fish

Koi represent gorgeous interior design with artworks such as sculpture, photographs, drawings, and paintings. The right placement of koi attracts prosperity and abundance into your life. Also, you can keep koi in a large aquarium or a pond.

However, if you are planning to raise a koi, make sure you follow some important things. Keep the water extremely clean and well-filtered. And, ensure that they are having enough space to grow and swim.


Whatever be the history or meaning, koi fish carry a sense of positivity all around. Whether it is longevity, courage, or good fortune, the fish encompasses it all.

Emma Thompson

Hi, I'm Emma Thompson. Welcome to The Pet Town! I'm a Pet lovers like you and please feel free to get in touch with any questions. Enjoy your stay!

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