Fish Symbolism (+Animal Totem/Spirit Animal): What They Mean for You?

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fish Symbolism

Fish Symbolism: The Deep Significance Of The Backbone Of The Oceans

Do you know what fish symbolism means? Fish are often used as symbols in dreams, artwork, and literature. They can represent different things depending on the culture and context. In some cases, fish may be considered animal totems or spirit animals. If you’re interested in finding out more about fish symbolism, read on! We’ll discuss the meanings associated with fish in different cultures, as well as how they can be interpreted symbolically. 

How many times have we, after a long and rough day, kicked backed and watched an aquarium to whittle our sorrows away? Long-held as a symbol of moderation and patience, the fish uses its graceful moves to help us be calm during stressful situations and to keep us in awe of the utmost beauty of nature. While some of us don’t realize their significance other than simply being a hearty dinner table staple, there’s more to these amazing animals than swimming around a cramped aquarium or lying haplessly on a plate for us to eat. A popular symbol of composure and restraint, let’s dive into the fish symbolism and learn about the messages of some of the most beautiful creatures on Earth.

“Well then, how are we gonna do that unless we give it a shot and hope for the best?”

– Dory, Finding Nemo

What do fish symbolize?

Since about 71 percent of our planet is covered with water and is inhabited by a whopping 33,000 species of fish, it’s easy to understand why we will never run short of fish symbolism. From its rhythmic glide to its burst of awesome colors, here’s what it means when a fish swims into your life.

Fish are often seen as a representation of the unconscious mind. Psychologically, they remind us that knowledge and mysteries lie deep within our own minds which can only be discovered by exploring all corners of it with unceasing curiosity. In essence, fish encourages us to keep learning and growing as individuals.

On a more spiritual note, fish also symbolize fertility, new beginnings, and abundance. They are often associated with feminine energy and the goddess Venus. In some cultures, fish represent good luck and fortune. For instance, in Chinese culture, fish are often seen as a symbol of surplus wealth and prosperity.

Fish symbol of change and transition

Fish are often seen as a symbol of change and transition. They represent the unknown, deep knowledge that can only be accessed through exploration (which may lead one down an unfamiliar path), the birth itself – which is commonly associated with femininity because it carries new life into this world!

The connection between water and fish speaks volumes about how we feel when faced with uncertainty or exploring our inner selves; whether introspectively searching for answers about who “you” really want to become at some point in your future. It is not surprising that fish are also a very popular tattoo choice! 

“Great fish do not swim in shallow waters.”

– Matshona Dhliwayo

Staying in the pink of health

Known to have existed millions of years ahead of any other animal on earth, the fish has long been recognized as a symbol of durability as well as a long and prosperous life. Since our health more or less dictates how long we’ll live, keeping ourselves in tremendous shape means that we get to spend more time with our loved ones, we’ll have a little more time to explore our interests and passions, as well as find more ways to make ourselves better and wiser persons. Plus, having the chance to see what the future would be like makes having the fish symbolism worth having a lengthy and fruitful life.

Fish symbol of durability Fish Symbolism (+Animal Totem/Spirit Animal): What They Mean for You?

Speaking words of wisdom

Regarded as one of the first creatures to rule the world, these gentle animals swim into our lives to remind us of our capacity for deep-rooted knowledge and wisdom. Since life is filled with hard-to-understand questions which are at times way beyond our logical comprehension, the fish comes to our rescue with the gift of wisdom that helps us scale past all our uncertainties and apprehensions. Not only do they give us the ability to keep going regardless of how challenging and treacherous the journey is, but also the grace to recognize our weaknesses and turn them into strengths instead.

Living up to your expectations

Recognized for its remarkable ability to lay from 100 to about a thousand eggs at a time, the fish was easily acknowledged in countless cultures as an indication of fertility and abundance. Since not all of its eggs are able to survive due to predators and a handful of environmental factors, many saw such potency as a symbol of productivity and hard work. From enabling us to accomplish more in less time to provide us with the knowledge on how to focus our time and energy towards a certain goal, these easygoing aquatic creatures show us that the benefits of being more efficient are endless.

A stroke of brilliance

If you are one of the few who possess the courage to explore the deep blue, then you have probably been rewarded with an explosion of colors that come from the plethora of fish species and their habitat alike. From the vivid blue and orange stripes of the Mandarinfish to the extremely colorful and interesting patterns of the Clown Triggerfish, there is no doubt that our oceans boast of some of the most vibrant creatures to have ever existed. However, there is more to these fish than meets the eye as they represent our more creative and artistic side. While it is no secret that an active imagination plays a critical role in our physical and spiritual growth, the presence of the fish teaches us how to appreciate our skills and talents, develop our self-esteem, and be more compassionate to others.

A breath of fresh air

Using its gills to extract oxygen from the water much like how we draw oxygen from the air, the fish owns the remarkable ability to breathe underwater. While most of us are probably too busy to recognize our need for spiritual renewal, the image of this relatively pleasant creature invites us to slow down and reconnect with ourselves and our loved ones. Not only does it allow us to withdraw from the physical, psychological, and emotional strains of everyday life, but it also allows us to achieve a more peaceful mind.

Remember folks, fish are like relatives. After two days, they stink.”

– Bobby Heenan

Fish spiritual meaning 

While they come in various shapes and sizes, these remarkable creatures are known to be born with spines or backbones. Although they are highly associated with intelligence, tranquility, and good fortune, they have been perceived to represent stability and balance both physically and in our emotions. Serving as their guide and protection as they move across the oceans, the fish reminds us how our spiritual guides are constantly watching over us as we traverse the waters of life. Considered one of the most mysterious and destructive among the elements, the fish spirit animal gives us the courage and strength to face the challenges that may overwhelm and eventually drown us.

fish spiritual guides Fish Symbolism (+Animal Totem/Spirit Animal): What They Mean for You?

Acting as an advisor through the most difficult times of our life, seeing a fish is a sign that tells us to trust in our talents and skills for they can lead us through rough waters as well as give us the spirit to just keep moving forward. Much like life, the sea is vast and is brimming with unforeseen threats that may lead us to drift along without a purpose. However, the fish spirit animal would flutter into our presence to remind us of our capacity to take control of our destiny and to help us swim to more favorable and welcoming bodies of water.

“No human being, however great, or powerful, was ever so free as a fish.”

– John Ruskin

Fish animal totem

Often seen traveling in large groups as a way to protect themselves, the fish is the perfect representation of the phrase “safety in numbers.” While some prefer going solo and hunting away from the others, having the fish as a totem signifies how much value we give our relationships. As several traditions see this as an indication of reliance and insecurity, their distinct beauty and characteristics tell us how we should be proud of the things that make us different and that our unique talents make us exceptional and one-of-a-kind. Forced to learn the ways of the school to which they belong, these generally calm animals teach us how to adapt to the various situations we may find ourselves in and help us come out as well-rounded and more understanding individuals.

Rarely seen motionless and dormant, the fish is constantly on the move to avoid being at the wrong end of a hunt. As predators in the waters are undoubtedly abundant, they teach us to keep on moving to fend off the pitfalls of being stagnant. Adored for their extraordinary ability to sleep with their eyes open, these marvelous animals remind us about the importance of being watchful as unexpected threats and risks may abound. However, their fondness for belonging to a group ensures that we will have the backing of our companions regardless of the challenges.

fish as a totem value relationships

Fish symbolism in different cultures around the world

While fish are often associated with water, they also play an important role in air and fire symbolism as these creatures were once believed to be able to travel across all three elements. As such, their representation of adaptability is not surprising as they can effortlessly and seamlessly move from one place to another.

Ancient Egyptian culture

In ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the fish was often used as a determinative for words related to water or liquids just like how it was used in early Semitic writing. Seen as a bringer of life and fertility, fish were also known to be sacred animals that possessed great strength and power. One of the most famous fish deities was Hatmehyt who was often depicted as a woman with a fish in her headdress. She was the goddess of fertility and fish and was said to protect the Nile River and its fish.

Celtic culture

In Celtic mythology, the fish is often seen as a symbol of transformation and rebirth just like how they travel between the worlds of water and land. As such, they were often used in ceremonies that were related to birth or death where people would dress up as fish or wear their skin as cloaks. In some stories, heroes would take on the form of fish to gain knowledge from otherworldly beings while others use them as vessels to travel across different realms.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

– Albert Einstein

Fish symbolism in African culture

In many African cultures, fish are often seen as messengers of the gods and are believed to be able to communicate with the dead. As such, they play an important role in divination and healing rituals. Often associated with waterfalls, fish are also seen as symbols of fertility and abundance. In some cultures, fish are also considered to be guardian spirits that protect against evil forces.

In other African cultures, the fish is a symbol of fertility and creativity. It’s no wonder then that this creature would play an important role in some mythology from across Africa! One example is Mangala-the creator god who brought life into existence with his magic staffs made out of fishing lines attached at each end to turn him into what we know today as “mangals.”

Fish symbolism in China

As one of the oldest civilizations in the world, it is not surprising that fish play an important role in Chinese culture. In Feng Shui, fish are often used as a way to attract good luck and fortune. It is said that placing a fish tank in your home or office will bring you wealth and abundance. The Chinese also believe that fish can help improve your career prospects and bring you success. Fish are an important motif in Chinese mythology, often depicted as carp or koi. In one story, a fish is transformed into a dragon after enduring years of hardship and struggle. This story symbolizes the power of determination and perseverance.

Fish symbolism in Native American culture

The fish is a popular symbol in Native American culture as it is seen as a sign of good luck and fortune. Often appearing in pairs, the fish is also associated with feminine energy and represents the continuous cycle of life. As fish are able to swim upstream, they are also known to be a symbol of strength, courage, and determination. In some cultures, the fish is also seen as a bringer of rain as they are believed to be connected to the water spirits.

Fish symbolism in Christianity

Fish has been used as a symbol of Christianity since the early days of the religion. One of the most famous stories in the Bible is when Jesus feeds a crowd of people with five loaves of bread and two fish. This miracle not only showed Jesus’ power but also his compassion for others. The fish also symbolizes new life and resurrection as they often lay their eggs in water. In some Christian art, fish are depicted alongside other symbols such as shells or anchors to represent faith, hope, and love.

What does the Christian fish symbol mean?

Perhaps because of Jesus’ invitation to transform the apostles from being fishermen to being fishers of men, the fish has always held a significant meaning in Christianity. Used as a code by Christians during the troubling and fearful period of persecution, it was said that a fish was scrawled on walls to inform their brothers in Christ about the places where they would often gather. Known as the ICHTHYS which is the Greek word for “fish,” many believers saw it as an acronym for Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, or Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.

christian fish symbol

Gaining more prominence because of the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish that fed thousands or when the disciples caught a boatload of them after Jesus’ prodding following his resurrection, these wonderful creatures are believed to represent how God fulfills His promise that He will always provide and that we will always be safe and protected if we keep the risen Christ on our side. As some of us continue to use the Christian fish symbol for bumper stickers, business cards, or decorative purposes, it is best to remember that this symbol image was once used to dispel fear and to profess divine faith, love, and forgiveness (read more about the symbolic forgiveness).

What does dreaming of fish mean?

Dreaming of fish can symbolize a variety of things depending on the context of the dream. Fish are often seen as symbols of fertility and abundance, so dreaming of fish could be a sign that you are about to experience a period of good luck or prosperity.

Alternatively, fish can also represent your emotions or unconscious mind. Dreams involving fish might be interpreted as messages from your subconsciousness that you need to pay attention to. If you see fish swimming in clear water, this could be a sign that you are in touch with your feelings and emotions. However, if the water is murky or polluted, this could indicate that you are repressing something negative or unhealthy.

Dreams about fishing might also represent something that you are striving for in your waking life. Catching a fish could symbolize success or achieving a goal while being unsuccessful in fishing might mean that you are feeling frustrated or stuck in a situation. Read more about the fish dream meaning.

Different fish and their spiritual meanings

Goldfish Symbolism

goldfish signify courage Fish Symbolism (+Animal Totem/Spirit Animal): What They Mean for You?

A spirit animal that lives to enjoy life, the goldfish would often glide into our presence to bring into our minds that though there is nothing wrong with taking your work seriously, it is also necessary to kick back and have some fun.

Goldfish are associated with all kinds of positive things: fertility (because they lay eggs), luck (their scales turn golden when stressed or unhappy), and harmony (they get along well with other animals like turtles for you might be coming soon if these symbols pop up regularly during dreams about them. Read more about the goldfish symbolism in our blog post.

Koi Symbolism


Swirling with a long and deep history in ancient Asian culture, the koi symbolism offers a bottomless meaning to those who welcome its presence into their life. Friendly, highly sociable, and long for the occasional gentle head pat, these magnificent creatures are a firm reminder that though you may seem small and insignificant, great things will sprout if you remain persistent and work hard to climb your waterfall.

Shark symbolism

shark symbolism saying

By employing the strength and boldness of the shark, we learn that the shark’s presence in our lives stirs us to remain protective of those who are most dear to us. As it would often wade into our consciousness in times of turbulence and confusion, it urges us to stay focused on our goals and not falter much like when this awesome spirit animal smells blood in the water. Read on about the shark symbolism.

Seahorse Symbolism


As one of the most captivating creatures of the sea, the tiny seahorse sure packs a host of symbolism that can help you lead and enjoy a better life (also see our post about seahorse symbolism). If you are fortunate enough to be among those who have these remarkable critters as your guide, then you can be assured that your journey will be nothing short of swift, peaceful, and calm.

Jellyfish symbolism

jellyfish symbolism saying

Jellyfish are fascinating creatures that have adapted to life on earth with no heart, eyes, or brain. They’re guided by instinct and allow their natural surroundings to take over for survival purposes. JellyFish don’t need any empathy because they’ve evolved beyond such emotions which makes them an excellent analogy of human intuition in some way.s The jellyfish always knows what’s best even if it doesn’t show through how we feel or what we think at the time. Jellyfish symbolism reminds us of what we know deep down inside but sometimes don’t acknowledge as a result of too much negativity in the atmosphere. Read on about the jellyfish symbolism.

Whale symbolism

Technically not a fish but one of the most popular ocean-dwelling creatures, we include the whale on this list.

whale animal totem saying

Perhaps because of their monstrous size, the presence of a whale frolicking in the waters is no doubt a fascinating and wonderful sight. Along with the ability to lift our spirits, these majestic creatures that carry ancient wisdom encourage us to listen to our inner voices and embrace our emotions as we dive deeper into our own spiritual odyssey. While they represent everything big and extensive in our lives, these graceful and gentle giants, though rare, would come to make us understand that there is more to life than meets the eye. Read on about the whale symbolism.

Dolphin symbolism

Technically not a fish but one of the most popular ocean-dwelling creatures, we include the dolphin on this list.

dolphins spirit guide 1 Fish Symbolism (+Animal Totem/Spirit Animal): What They Mean for You?

Second, only to humans in terms of intelligence, dolphins are truly wonderful creatures. While having them as your spirit guide easily awakens your fun-loving, childlike nature, these charming and adorable mammals can also grant you the courage to face your fears as well as the strength to keep your loved ones away from danger. Not only will it impart intelligence at tremendous levels and enhance your ability to communicate well, but the mere presence of the dolphin spirit animal would often come out of the deep waters to simply bring us a breath of fresh air. Read more about the dolphin symbolism.

Octopus symbolism

Technically not a fish but one of the most popular ocean-dwelling creatures, we include the octopus on this list.


Octopuses are invertebrates and do not have a developed structured spinal column. It is symbolic of flexibility, grace, and agility. She can even escape the tightest of places as well as ambulate when embodied in water. You also need to observe its movements, which are quite hypnotic. Being a totem animal reminds you to relax and loosen up. She also shows that you need to move steadily towards your set goals but in an orthodox manner. You are likely to derive similar results. Read on about the octopus symbolism.

Dead fish symbolism


Fishes are a symbol of prosperity and success in life but dead fishes mean exactly the opposite. A dead fish is a symbol of disappointments, missed opportunities, wrong decisions, and negative things coming in your future. Overall, a dead fish has only a negative meaning. If someone refers to a person as a dead fish, it means that the person is too boring and is a complete waste of time to be around. If you send a dead fish to someone, it means that the person to whom the fish is being sent could be dead soon. Read more about the dead fish symbolism.


Much like how some of us would say to give others a boost of confidence, there really are plenty of fish in the sea. Although some of us fail to see their symbolic significance, they patiently glide in our presence brimming with magnificent spiritual messages. As Dory in “Finding Nemo” tells her friend and us to “just keep swimming,” it only shows that animated 

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Author: Cynthia Demers
Cynthia is dealing with animals' symbolism and all things spiritual for many years. She wants to help readers achieve balance in physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband.

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