134 Fish Tattoos Designs and Meanings

There are fish monuments and memorials dating back thousands and thousands of years, which makes it a very ancient and historical symbol. There are fish monuments and memorials dating back thousands and thousands of years, which makes it an ancient and historical symbol. Fish were very important in the diets of the island and coastal peoples, so fish were often vital to their survival. To ensure a plentiful and abundant supply of food, different cultures began worshipping or praising the fish or gods they believed provided the fish.

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Fish tattoos are parts of history

fish tattoos
fish tattoos

small fish tattoo idea
small fish tattoo idea

Gods and goddesses associated with oceans and waters are often purported to be in control of fish and sea creatures, as well. Even in more modern religions, the fish is very significant. In the Western world, fish are often associated with Christianity, while in the Eastern world they are critical in Japanese traditions and folklore.

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Fish can represent faithfulness, wisdom, Jesus, power, creativity, females, happiness, change, fertility, abundance, wealth, success, knowledge, inspiration, prophecy, revenge, good fortune, luck, longevity, loyalty, and courage. Negatively, the fish can also symbolise greed, danger, and lies.

Christian fish tattoo
Christian fish tattoo

religious fish tattoosThe various meaning of a fish tattoo is derived both from the type of fish and the cultural history with which it is perceived. For example, Christian tradition implies that fish is representative of abundance and faithfulness or loyalty. Christ fed thousands with only a few fish in one Bible story.

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Historically, a specific fish symbol is known as Ichthys, which is a simple design combining two curved lines.

color ichthys tattooThis symbol was used to identify other Christians in a time when Christianity was being suppressed. Today, the logo is a favourite religious tattoo design and is often seen as a symbol for passionate, vocal, or revivalist believers. As a tattoo design, the ichthys fish sometimes contains other biblical references, like a verse, the word “Jesus,” or a cross. The ichthys fish, sometimes called the Jesus fish, can be tattooed in any style, colour, or size. As a symbol, it translates well into the tattooing medium. Increasing in popularity, ichthys parody tattoos are becoming more and more common. These tattoos play on the design of the famous fish to create a new symbol or critique the meaning of the original.

Two of the more common variations include the Darwin or evolution fish and the Jewish fish.

darwin fish tattoo
darwin fish tattoo

The Darwin fish is the symbol of the ichthys with the addition of legs. Sometimes, this fish design also incorporates the name “Darwin” in place of “Jesus.” Although some Darwinists and Evolutionists critique the symbol for not accurately representing their beliefs, others embrace it, not as a representation of themselves and their own opinions, but as a criticism of Christianity and Creationism.

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As a tattoo design, this can be done in as many stylistic ways as the original Jesus fish. The Jewish fish is similar; it is the ichthys fish symbol with the word “gefilte” replacing “Jesus.” Gefilte is a ground puree of fish that is very popular among Jews, particularly Ashkenazi Jews. This fish dish has come to represent Jewish faith and ethnicity, and many Jews embrace the symbol in the same way Christians embrace their design.

Perhaps the most common fish design for tattoos, though, is the Koi fish. Koi fish, or Carp as they called in English, is critical in Japanese culture, much like the cherry blossom or dragon.

koi fish tattoo for womenKoi fish tattoo on backkoi fish tattooThere are several folk tales in both Japanese and Chinese culture that explain the history of the Koi, but the message is constant; Koi fish represent bravery, strength, courage, and perseverance. In most of the stories, the Koi fish succeeding in overcoming great hurdles and achieving the impossible. Today, Koi fish are an incredibly popular tattoo motif among men and women in both the Western and Eastern hemisphere.

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full back koi fish tattoofull sleeve koi fish tattoojapanese fish tattoo

Source of images: pinterest.com

In Japan, Koi tattoos are sometimes associated with the Japanese mafia-like organisation known as the Yakuza, which is still feared today. Because of this connection, Koi fish may be more common in the West. Some people believe the direction a Koi fish tattoo faces is indicative of the sexuality of the person, but sources differ as to which course holds which meaning and the belief is not widespread.

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However, this is something to consider when contemplating a Koi tattoo.

Tattoos of Koi fish come in a variety of colours and styles and are often more colourful or decorative than the actual fish. There are tattoos for every species of fish or sea life, from sponges and anemones to sharks, whales and guppies. Some of the more popular fish for tattoo designs are goldfish, stingrays, eels, octopi, clown fish, rainbow fish (based off of a beloved children’s storybook), trout, salmon, marlin, and swordfish. These fish tattoos often hold personal meaning rather than general symbolism for those who choose them, like a love of fishing or a childhood fascination.

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Gallery with plenty of fish tattoos