Paper Tube Koi Fish

Paper Tube Koi Fish

Koi fish (Japanese carp) are a beloved freshwater fish often found in water gardens. They are ornate, docile fish, admired for their striking colors. Create your own pond of sparkling Koi using recycled paper towel tubes!


  • Paper Towel Tubes 
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paint Palette
  • Brushes
  • Heavy Weight Paper
  • Sequins
  • Craft Glue
  • Googly Eyes or Wooden Beads

Step 1: Mix colors for your Koi. The color of the Koi holds meaning in some cultures. Ideas for symbolic colors include pink for females or daughters; black for strength, fatherhood, and perseverance; black spots on a white body for future life changes; white body with red spots for career success; white and red with red coloring around its mouth for love and long-lasting relationships; red for motherhood and care; yellow body with black spots means true love; gold for wealth; and blue is for peace.

Step 2: Paint the tube in the desired color for the body of the koi fish. Add spots or markings if desired.

Step 3: Use craft glue to adhere sequins to the body. These will represent the fish’s scales. Alternatively, paint a scaled or spotted pattern directly on the tube. 

Step 4: Paint a section of heavy-weight paper in the color of your choice for the fins and tail. 

Step 5: When the paper is dry, cut two fins and one tail from the painted paper. 

Step 6: Insert the tail into one end of the tube. Glue shut.

Step 7: Trim the back sides of the tube to reflect the streamlined body of the koi fish. 

Step 8: Cut the side fins and glue them to each side of the tube. 

Step 9: Adhere the eyes to the sides of the tube above the fins, close to the open end. 

Step 10: Add a ring of paper in a contrasting color to the open end of the tube to represent the lips and mouth of the koi fish. 

Ideas to take your paper tube koi fish to the next level:

  • Turn the Koi into a windsock! Leave the tail end open and attach your Koi to a stick with a piece of string. 
  • Create a koi puppet by gluing a dowel stick to the finished project. 

Learning and Discussion:

1. How much do you know about Koi, the beautiful ornamental fish? Visit this site to learn more! 

2. Koi are associated with a variety of meanings and symbolism. Visit the Love to Know website to learn some of the symbolism related to Koi. 

3. Koi fish are highly valued. This documentary takes a trip to Japan to understand why the Koi is so valuable. 

Thank you to our sponsor, PNC Arts Alive!, for helping to make this video possible!

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