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What are the meanings of koi fish colors?

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In East Asian culture, the colors of koi fish represent different qualities pertaining to strength, ambition and dedication. Black koi represent the overcoming of obstacles, red koi represent love, blue koi represent propagation and family, and gold koi represent wealth and success. Additionally, koi exist in less common colors or combinations of colors, bearing meanings that are open to individual interpretation.

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The imagery is also highly popular in Asian art and tattooing. In these depictions, every aspect of the koi is deliberate and representative of specific meanings. In addition to color, the meaning of koi is read in the direction of their swimming, their shape, their proximity to fire and water and the inclusion of other iconography.

The popularity of koi in the East originates in an ancient legend. Once, as thousands of koi swam upstream in the Yellow River to build their strength, most turned back upon reaching a great waterfall. Those with the greatest resolve attempted to swim to the top. The only koi that succeeded was admired by the gods, who transformed it into a golden dragon as a reward. The journey is regarded as a metaphor for Japanese life and, as such, koi have been bred for centuries to express colors of personal significance.

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