Koi Fish Meaning Definition

Kawarigoi Koi Variety
Koi fish symbolize perseverance,
ambition and advancement

Chinese Koi Fish Meaning

Koi fish are kept in ponds all over the world, but they have a special meaning in Asia.  A couple thousand years ago, a legend in China was formed that told how carp (Koi) that swam up a waterfall and through the dragon gate were magically transformed into dragons.  Through perseverance and endurance, the carp were able to become mythical beings.  Two thousand years later and the Koi fish still symbolize perseverance and endurance.  This was also the basis of the Pokemon Magicarp turning into Gyarados in the video game.


Japanese Koi Fish Meaning

In Japan, Koi are known for their masculine and positive qualities.  They are the official symbol for the Children's Day (May 5th) festival in Japan.  On Children's day, families hang a Koi windsocks (KoinoBori) for every member they have in their household.  Another quality that the Japanese symbolize with is strength for overcoming life's difficulties.  By persevering in life's endeavors, one can better him or herself.


Koi Varieties

The names for each type of Koi have meaning.  They are:

  • Gosanke: The big three (Kohaku, Sanke and Showa)
  • Kohaku: Amber (The red color of the pattern)
  • Taisho Sanshoku (Sanke): Three colored Koi that was established during the Taishō era
  • Showa Sanshoku (Showa): Three colored Koi that was established in the Showa era
  • Bekko: Separate (The separate black spots of color)
  • Utsuri: Reflection (The pattern on an Utsuri variety is like a checkerboard)
  • Asagi: Light Blue (The color of the Koi)
  • Shusui: Gather water from a lake or river
  • Tancho: The Koi has a single spot of color on the head, like Grus Japonensis, the Japanese Crane
  • Hikarimono: Bright, like a meteorite
  • Ogon (correct spelling: ougon): Gold (Any single colored metallic Koi has Ogon placed after the name)
  • Nezu: Dark Grey
  • Yamabuki: Japanese yellow rose
  • Koromo: Gown (the fancy shading of the scales)
  • Kin (correct spelling: kinu): silk (metallic color that is shiny like silk)
  • Kujaku: Peacock
  • Goi (Koi): Carp
  • Matsukawa Bakke (short for Bakemon): Pinecone River Ghost
  • Doitsu: Germany (where the scaless carp were imported from)
  • Kikusui: Light chrysanthemum
  • Matsuba: Pine needle (pinecone shading of the scales)
  • Ochiba Shigure: Fallen leaves from rain
  • Kumonryu (Ku Mon Ryu): Nine Crest Dragon (A crest "monshō" is the Japanese version of a coat of arms)
  • Kuchi: Lips
  • Karasugoi: Raven Carp (black like a raven)
  • Hajiro: A duck with bright patches on its wings (The Koi have white on the tips of the fins)
  • Chagoi: Tea carp (brown colored like tea)
  • Kigoi: Yellow carp
  • Midorigoi: Green carp


Kohaku koi fish
Kohaku Koi Fish

Koi Colors

Oftentimes, varieties of Koi are broken down into color variations.  For instance, Utsuri Koi come in three color varieties: Hi Utsuri, Ki Utsuri and Shiro Utsuri (red, yellow, and white).  Here is the meaning of the Koi fish colors:

  • Shiro: White
  • Ki: Yellow
  • Hi: Red
  • Beni: deep red
  • Sumi: Black
  • Orenji: Orange
  • Purachina: Platinum
  • Budo (correct spelling: budou): Grape
  • Midori: Green