Fish Symbolism & Spiritual Meanings Of Seeing Fish

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koi fish circling the earth

Fish have long been sources of food for cultures around the world, but their presence also carries deep spiritual meaning. With over 33,000 species of fish living in all different kinds of aquatic environments, these creatures have lived for over 500 million years!

While those who enjoy astrology may associate the fish with the zodiac sign Pisces (Pisces actually translates to "fish" in Latin), fish symbolism goes as deep as the oceans they inhabit.

Fish Symbolism & Spiritual Meanings Of Fish

Fish are symbols of rebirth, fertility, the unconscious or higher self, luck, change, health, and feelings.

Fish are also commonly associated with the water element, which signifies stability, balance, and tranquility. In some cases, water is seen as the protector of the body and can act as a kind of antidote to extreme emotions and movements of the body.

However, water can also represent flooding and totality; the immense range of water can give it qualities of obscurity and mystery. The fish’s strong connection to the water element gives it similar connotations of duality.

If water obscures a lot of hard decisions in life, the fish acts as a guide familiar with the world of the unknown. In this sense, it can act as a spiritual rock, a stabilizing force in the face of adversity.

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Fish Encounters and Omens

When you encounter fish in any body of water, or by simply seeing a fish symbol, it's a good omen that tells you to trust your instincts.

If you identify strongly with the fish or start to see fish appear more often, pay attention to your gut reaction. For example, if your gut tells you something is up with a new person in your life, or you find your relationship with a current partner is at a turning point, don’t second-guess your feelings.

The fish also acts as a guiding force in important, difficult decisions. So, if you are having a bad time, defer to the higher, more knowledgeable power: nature. You will find that in your time of greatest need, Mother Nature will give you just the helping hand you need.

if you yourself feel lost, unsure, and adrift, look out for how the fish may appear in your life.

What Different Types of Fish Symbolize

With thousands of fish species, there are no doubt going to be different meanings for specific fish. Here, we've broken down meanings for more recognizable and popular fish.

Salmon Meaning

Salmon are known for their spawning season, but have several different species. For example, King Salmon represent power, leadership and authority; Black Salmon are symbols of psychic gifts and mystery; and Pink Salmon are symbols of fertility and romance.

But overall, salmon are symbols of regeneration, cycles of life, emotions, instinct, wisdom, and bravery.

Koi Meaning

Koi fish are associated with dedication and bravery due to their ability to swim up waterfalls and streams. But these fish are also symbols of wealth, luck, and victory.

Catfish Meaning

Because catfish cay lay at least 4,000 eggs per year, they have come to be known as symbols of fertility and prosperity. However, since catfish use their electroreceptive sensory abilities, they are also associated with clairvoyance, psychic awareness, and sensitivity.

Swordfish Meaning

Swordfish are extremely adaptable, able to change their body temperature when the water is too cold. This is why they are symbols of flexibility, bravery, change, and quickness.

Angelfish Meaning

Much like salmon and catfish, angelfish are symbols of fertility, as they can produce up to 1,000 eggs in a single season.

But specific types of angelfish have differing meanings: Blackspot Angelfish represent the connection between masculine and feminine; the Gold Angelfish represents fire and leadership; and the Black Lace Angelfish is a symbol of mystery and inner workings.

Angelfish, as a whole, are symbols of emotions, hope, angels or spirits, psychic awareness, and fidelity.

Carp Meaning

Though small carp are known to swim in schools to survive, larger carp live solitary lives, which is why they are associated with change, ambition, and individuality. But in other cultures, carp unanimously represent good fortune, luck and prosperity.

Pufferfish Meaning

Pufferfish are known to be toxic when not served to be eaten in the proper way, and for this reason, they are associated with the warning that being prideful is toxic to your well being. Pufferfish are also symbols of courage, humility, and confidence.

Fish Symbolism in Dreams

Fish in dreams represent a deep awakening that will only be triggered when you're at the start of a potentially challenging time in your life. The fish is always there for those who need it the most, to help guide those who are lost in dark waters.

But depending on the circumstances of the dream, it determines what your subconscious is really trying to tell you.

Dreaming of a big fish

When you have a dream involving a large fish, it means you need to think about how you handle the negativity of others. It's important to not let yourself get emotionally distraught, and remain balanced in how you make decisions of the heart.

Dreaming of a fish out of water

If you dream of a fish that is out of water, it represents an unbalance or unhappiness, or that you have not yet fulfilled your life's purpose. Rather than basing your own happiness on others, search within yourself for that truth.

Dreaming of a dead fish

When you dream of a dead fish, it means you're being faced with doubt and need to figure out a way to trust your gut. Another meaning of this dream is that your desires need to be more realistic in order to find true happiness.

Dreaming of catching a fish

Spiritually, dreaming of fishing is related to tapping into your imagination. So, to dream about catching fish is all about manifesting your goals and desires into reality.

Dreaming of eating fish

If you have a dream about eating fish, it represents luck, spirituality and your own personal energy. To dream of cooking a fish to eat it, that relates to coming to terms with your spirituality and knowledge, and combining it with any realizations you've come to.

Dreaming of fish eggs

Dreaming of fish eggs is related to fertility and may appear in your dreams if you're in the process of trying to get pregnant. But fish eggs also symbolize new beginnings, which could also be relevant to starting a family of your own.

Dreaming of fish scales

When you dream of fish scales, they represent growth in your life or that you are happy with where you are in your progression through life. Consider this a good omen!

RELATED: What Do Dreams About Water Mean?

Fish Spirit or Totem Animal

While a spirit animal is essentially a spiritual guides who teaches us lessons while helping us go down the right path, a totem animal, which is another form of spirit guide, is called upon when we need help or guidance the most.

You'll know that you have a fish spirit animal if you've had a profound experience with one or resonate with them in some way. But be mindful that you can't choose your spirit animal.

Having a fish as a spirit animal brings into question whether or not you're fulfilling your inner femininity and nurturing capabilities.

When your fish spirit animal appears, it's a reminder to look within yourself, find that part of you that might be hidden, and to tap into your psychic abilities. Be sure to validate your own emotions and process them, rather than keeping them buried deep down inside; that way, you can live a more balanced life.

Those with a fish totem are able to easily adapt to their environments, are independent, and frequently wish to swim against the current, so to speak. These individuals are connected to water in some way, have strong gut reactions, and desire to deepen their connection to their mind and spirit.

Image credit: Tuttoo & non15 / Shutterstock and Unsplash

Spiritual Meaning of Fish in Christianity and the Bible

In Christianity, fish represent faith, abundance, and Jesus Christ himself. In fact, what we know as a "Jesus fish," also called ichthys, represents Christ, and is related to the Holy Eucharist, and Jesus's charity in multiplying fish and loaves of bread.

Other Biblical references include Jesus and his disciples being referred to as "fishers of men," where fish represent men and the vast ocean represents the endless abyss of sin.

Spiritual Meaning of Fish in Buddhism

In Buddhism, fish are symbols of joy and freedom from societal norms and expectations. For Buddhists, fish have the freedom to swim where they please; Buddhist robes often depict fish, which are then given to a bride and groom in Buddhist ceremonies.

Two fish, on the other hand, represent inner harmony, or peace between two people or entities. Two fish are also said to symbolize "swimming" through issues or conflict to eventually find peace.

Fish Symbolism in Mythology and Folklore

Native American Fish Symbolism

Some Native American tribes (including Chickasaw, Ho-Chunk, and Creek) carved different types of fish into totem poles, while other tribes (Iroquois, Lenape, and Caddo) had fish dancing rituals.

Some tribes used fish as a primary source of food and held them in high esteem, with the salmon, in particular, being honored as a medicinal animal.

In Native American cultures, fish symbolize prosperity, fertility, and good luck; fish were also depicted in myths as shapeshifters and came to symbolize wisdom and mystery.

Celtic Fish Symbolism

In Celtic culture, the salmon was a symbol of wisdom and foreseeing the future.

The Celts believed that salmon were sources of prophecy and knowledge, gaining their wisdom from eating sacred hazel nuts; eating salmon was also said to instill wisdom in the one eating.

African Fish Symbolism

In African cultures, fish are associated with creativity, new beginnings, and fertility. A symbol depicting two fish was popular in Ancient Africa, particularly symbols of tilapia and Nile perch.

Tilapia was associated with protection and the sun, while the Nile perch was a symbol of night, darkness and destruction.

One famous myth told of Mangala, the creator god, who planted seeds in the cosmic womb. Two fish grew from the seeds and Mangala sent them into the cosmic waters of creation. This symbolized a new phase of life.

Far Eastern Fish Symbolism

The Gun-Yu, or Great Flood, represents a great cleansing and total destruction towards rebirth; rebirth is related to fish, in general, as is change. Fish also symbolize fidelity and are given as wedding gifts. Koi fish, specifically, are symbols of wealth, affluence, and courage.

In Chinese mythology, the goddess of compassion, mercy and kindness, also known as Great Mother Kwan-yin, is often depicted as a fish.

In Japan, koi fish are related to Samurai, while folklore tells of a tale of a giant catfish named Namazu, a bringer of earthquakes. As the myth goes, Namazu lives beneath the earth and is guarded by the god Takemikazuchi.

Nordic Fish Symbolism

In Nordic folklore, fish are symbols of determination, adaptability, and the ebbs and flows of life, in general.

The Nordic people honored salmon, specifically, calling attention to this fish's ability to easily adapt to its environment, as well as its determination to make the journey to spawn.

Greco-Roman Fish Symbolism

The fish as a life-giving force is seen in many pagan traditions; the fish represents femininity, fertility, and reproduction, and are often symbolic of higher maternal beauty.

In the ancient Greco-Roman myth, Aphrodite (Venus in Roman mythology), as well as Eros, turned themselves into fish to escape the monster Typhon. This myth shows how the fish comes to represent not only feminine beauty and fertility, but also how femininity can be utilized to ensure speedy salvation.

In Ancient Greece, Aphrodite was celebrated on Fridays, when people ate fish.

Fish Tattoo Meaning

There are several reasons why someone would get a fish tattoo, and this tattoo art can come in all different sizes and colors, due to the endless choices available.

One might get a fish tattoo to symbolize being a Pisces zodiac sign, while others may get a koi fish as a token of good luck or perseverance. A fish tattoo may also represent a love of fishing or the water, or a connection to Jesus Christ.

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Jessica Xing is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture, relationships, and social media.