When you go swimming in the vast, guiltless depths of the ocean, you expect to see fish, corals, and the occasional shark.
So when you happen upon a strange, glowing, phantom drifter…you’re taken by surprise.
What is it? And why does it enthrall you so?
Everything about jellyfish is so captivating—their translucent dome-shaped bells, their wispy appendages, and their pulsating movements. They’re like the spirits of the sea.
Jellyfish tattoos emanate a similar mystique. It’s difficult for them to come anywhere near the incredible allure of real-life jellyfish—but they hold up pretty damn well.
In this article, I’ve compiled 19 of the best jellyfish tattoo designs.
Each artist is given due credit, so if you want to check out more of their work or message them directly, their names and Instagram accounts are all there.
Towards the end, I’ll also answer some FAQs and talk about the various symbolisms associated with jellyfish, so keep reading!
Watercolor Jellyfish Tattoos
Watercolor tattoo style often really goes well with galaxy and water themes. It does a great job of replicating the fluidity and scale of the ocean and outer space.
It can also help achieve aesthetics that other styles cannot.
Since jellyfish species have a ton of variety in their color schemes, it can be a good idea to go for a watercolor style to achieve a fluid, ethereal look.
by Unknown Artist.
by Living Art Tattoo. (@livingarttattoostudiollc on Instagram).
by Unknown Artist.
Realistic Jellyfish Tattoos
Realistic tattoo style is where the jellyfish design theme really stands out. When you have an artist that really knows what they’re doing, you can get a tattoo that’s beautiful as well as timeless.
It takes a mastery over translucency and fluidity—two insanely complicated drawing concepts.
It’s leagues easier to use color for all the detail involved, so black-and-grey realistic tattoos are incredibly impressive.
The amount of detail it takes to pull off the translucent look that jellyfish are so famous for is mind-blowing. Just see for yourself.
by STUDIOBYSOL_eunyu. (@eunyutattoo on Instagram).
by Diana Severinenko. (@diana.severinenko on Instagram).
by Christine T. Fachini. (@christinetfachini on Instagram).
by SOL TATTOO STUDIO. (@studiobysol on Instagram).
by Tilie Andrade. (@tilitattoo on Instagram).
by Tattoo Snob. (@tattoosnob on Instagram).
by khrystattoo. (@khrystattoo on Instagram).
by _unbrkable_. (@_unbrkable_ on Instagram).
Traditional Jellyfish Tattoos
Traditional tattoo style really does go with anything. It’s a unique, classic style that seems to never go out of style.
Even though every ounce of realism is gone in the traditional style, it can still convey the same mysterious ambience.
When used on a jellyfish design theme, the traditional style can really bring a different energy.
by Bobbi Nickles. (@_bntattoo on Instagram).
Small Jellyfish Tattoos
Jellyfish tattoos probably look their best when done in a hyper realistic style. For some people, though, it can be too much.
A small, minimalist jellyfish tattoo is perfect for someone who wants a similar feel without having to commit to a large-scale, complex tattoo.
by leffet.mer.tattoo. (@leffet.mer.tattoo on Instagram).
Illustrative Jellyfish Tattoos
Illustrative style, in some cases, can be hard to tell apart from realistic style. Partly because they can both use the iconic ball-point pen style.
But what makes illustrative what it is, is that it looks just like a drawing translated into a tattoo. Because of this, illustrative tattoos can vary wildly.
This also means that your artist can take a lot of artistic liberties and play around with the design according to their style and your preferences.
by André Vieira. (@inkhouse_alfenas on Instagram).
by Balam. (@balam.tatts on Instagram).
by HEN. (@hen_tattooer on Instagram).
by Zajawa Tattoo. (@zajawatattoo_gda on Instagram).
Space Jellyfish Tattoos
Jellyfish have often been described as alien-like. They just don’t look like they’re part of this world.
When you see one, it’s an amazing experience—almost psychedelic. It can be difficult to accept that what you’re seeing is truly there.
Because of this, jellyfish naturally fit into the whole space theme. They’re often illustrated alongside astronauts or floating in space.
by Daphne Love. (@daphnelovetattoo on Instagram).
by Austin Modglin. (@amodglin on Instagram).
What does Jellyfish symbolize?
Because of their mysterious, ethereal appearance and behavior, jellyfish have been known to represent various ideas.
To help you understand your jellyfish tattoo, we’ll discuss the various symbolisms attached to it.
Red sea: a jellyfish bloom in the Philippines (Source)
In 1999, jellyfish blacked out the entire Philippine island of Luzon. 50 truckloads of jellyfish clogged the cooling system of a coal-fired power plant, plunging 40 million people into darkness—and inciting fears of a military coup.
In 2007, salmon farmers in Northern Ireland could do nothing but watch as a sea of blood-red jellyfish slaughtered their stock of $2 million worth of Atlantic salmon.
It was surreal. Their entire inventory of salmon had either died of stress, suffocated, or were stung to death by the crimson deluge.
In 2013, the South Korean government dispatched jellyfish-shredding robots along their coastline in hopes of controlling the unsettlingly high population of invasive jellyfish.
Not only were the blooms of jellyfish destroying fish populations and marine industries in South Korea, but they were also injuring thousands of people, including a child who later died from their injuries.
What’s unusual about these stories is that the jellyfish blooms seemingly came from nowhere. These stories happened because none of the people involved expected the invasions.
And even now, there isn’t enough data to support any definitive reason for the spikes in jellyfish blooms.
But among the reasons that researchers suspect…are rising global ocean temperatures and overfishing. This implies that their presence is both a warning and a direct result of global calamity.
The spectral blooms lure us in with mesmerizing visuals, but at the horrible cost of danger and death. For this reason, jellyfish are known as symbols of danger.
Photo by Sasha • Stories (Source)
One popular misconception that a lot of people have about jellyfish is that they are just bags of jelly, drifting passively in the oceans.
And it makes sense—how could they move? They’re 95% water. No hearts. No brains. Not even the tentacles move.
But they actually can move—and the way they do so is extremely unique. Similar to how squid move, jellyfish “swim” by means of jet propulsion. By relaxing and contracting their dome-shaped bells, they expel water behind them and propel themselves forward.
Somehow, though, people look at jellyfish as passive drifters—submitting to the ocean’s every whim. And this stigma, however incorrect, is widely accepted as common sense.
But according to scientists at Deakin University in Australia, jellyfish are more than that. Their research has found that jellyfish have a way to detect the direction of the current—and actively swim against it.
Common sense has taught us that jellyfish are idle, yielding creatures of the sea—entirely reliant on the ebb and flow of water—but this research tells us how completely wrong we are in thinking that.
Not only are they dynamic creatures who consciously go wherever they please—but they also actively resist the whims of the ocean—a force that even humans can’t control.
Because of this, jellyfish have become symbols of resistance.
Photo by Krysten Merriman (Source)
Jellyfish are not long-living. Far from it. Most species generally only live up to 1 year and then die off after reproducing.
But there is an exception—the immortal jellyfish, Turritopsis dohrnii.
Turritopsis dohrnii is the only species in the world deemed biologically immortal. That means, in the right conditions, it will live forever.
For humans, it’s hard to grasp the concept of “forever”. How could we? The average human life expectancy is 70 years. For the 4.5 billion years that the Earth has existed, our species has only been there for 300,000—roughly 0.00007% of the Earth’s age.
Not even trees come close to “forever”. Methuselah, the oldest known living tree is only under 5,000 years old. So “forever” is definitely something else.
But how? In a world where we have been shown time and time again that death is an inevitable constant, how can jellyfish be the exception?
What is their secret?
The life cycle of Turritopsis dohrnii (Source)
Most jellyfish have the same life cycle. They start out as fertilized eggs, latch onto a surface and become polyps, then transform into ephyrae and medusae to reproduce and inevitably die.
But Turritopsis dohrnii is different.
Whereas most jellyfish would die after the medusa phase, Turritopsis dohrnii, when stressed, will revert back to its polyp phase—essentially de-aging itself. Think of it like a butterfly transforming back into a caterpillar—or, heck, you transforming back into a toddler.
From there, it restarts its life cycle, making it potentially biologically immortal. It’s truly amazing.
Though, this isn’t the only reason jellyfish are symbols of longevity.
Besides biological immortality, jellyfish are also one of the oldest living animals on Earth (at least 505 million years old), rivaled only by sea sponges (at least 760 million years old).
Life comes and goes. The Earth’s environment is ever-changing. It’s why we (sadly) have to keep seeing animals go extinct. Many species will eventually fail to adapt to the ever-changing world.
But the jellyfish isn’t one of them.
Jellyfish, for the last 505 million years, have obviously been doing something right. And it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon.
It’s for these reasons that jellyfish are known, and will continue to be known, as symbols of longevity.
Photo by Marat Gilyadzinov (Source)
They might seem lifeless from afar, but as you get a closer look, the seemingly empty husks of gel start to pulsate with life.
Everything from their translucent bodies to their long, wispy appendages makes them seem like spirits from an astral plane.
When you realize that they’ve been on this Earth so much longer than you have, it’s humbling in a way.
And to be surrounded by these ancient, spectral beings whose knowledge of the world we might never even begin to fathom—it’s a surreal feeling.
Because of this, jellyfish are viewed as symbols of wisdom.
Jellyfish Tattoo FAQs
Why should I get a Jellyfish tattoo?
Jellyfish tattoos carry an ethereal energy—one not easily replicated in other designs. Their unique appearance allows for the use of immense detail without diminishing visual appeal.
Their wispy appearance also lets them fit into various design themes such as space or floral, which is great if you want to create a unique design.
Jellyfish also represent a handful of meaningful ideas such as danger, resistance, longevity, and wisdom.
Where should I put my jellyfish tattoo?
The best tattoo placements for jellyfish tattoos definitely have to be upper arm, forearm, thigh, and back.
Because jellyfish are longer than they are wide, they lend themselves well to locations that can accommodate their length well. This includes the arms and legs.
Jellyfish tattoos are also extremely appealing when done with intricate detail, and there is no better location for such a tattoo than on the forearm, which provides visibility as well as accommodates the jellyfish’s length.
The upper arm and thigh also do well to accommodate the length. But for pieces with a squarer ratio, the back appears to be a much better location.
Will it hurt?
It’ll definitely sting, if you catch my drift.
Awesome puns aside, everyone experiences a different intensity of pain. To find out how bad your jellyfish tattoo will hurt, consider the following factors:
- Size & complexity of design
- Tattoo placement
- Pain tolerance
Some of these factors might affect you more than others since each one largely depends on you and your body.
Size & complexity of design
Jellyfish tattoos have a ton of variety. You can opt for a small-sized minimalist jellyfish tattoo, a medium-sized traditional tattoo, or an immensely detailed, large-sized illustrative tattoo. The possibilities are endless, and there’s a lot of ways to personalize your tattoo.
However, this does affect how bad your tattoo will hurt. If you’re going for a small-sized tattoo, it can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours. This means you won’t be dealing with too much pain very long.
Medium- and large-sized tattoos take much longer. And depending on how complex the design is, you could be doing several sessions back to back.
If you have a decent pain tolerance, this won’t be a problem. But some people can’t stand pain for long periods of time. In their case, it’s better to stick with a small tattoo (for shorter sessions) or ask your artist for some numbing cream.
The good thing about small-sized tattoos is that they can be done before your adrenaline and endorphin rush ends. Endorphins and adrenaline are your body’s reaction to pain. They help dull out the stress and pain for about 30 minutes.
If you’ve got a small and simple enough tattoo, your session might just end before the rush does. Minimal pain!
Ultimately, we recommend getting a small jellyfish tattoo if you have a skin condition or a low pain tolerance. It’ll save you and your tattoo artist the trouble.
- Tattoo placement
Tattoo placement also massively influences the intensity of pain you’ll experience. Primarily because some parts of the body aren’t as “protected” as others.
This is easier to understand if you think of fat and muscle as “protective layers”. The fat and muscle help cushion the impact of the needle and dull out the pain.
Following this logic, parts like the thighs and upper arms would be well protected, while parts like the wrist and ankle would be unprotected.
Since jellyfish tattoos are often longer than wide, most of them are placed on the forearm or thigh, which are well protected areas.
If you have a low pain tolerance, tell your artist to shy away from less protected areas near the forearm and thigh such as the elbow, wrist, or knee. If your design overlaps with those areas, you should expect a spike in pain intensity.
For a comprehensive discussion on which body parts hurt most when getting tattooed, check out this article by Healthline on tattoo pain.
- Pain tolerance
Some people have naturally low pain tolerances. This could be caused by a skin condition, thin skin, or recent emotional trauma. Pain tolerances vary from person to person, so it’s a good idea to figure out how well you fare before booking an appointment.
But if you’re already committed to getting your tattoo, here are a few actionable ways to mitigate the pain:
- Get enough sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep before getting your tattoo, you’ll hinder your body’s natural healing process. (Important!)
- Stay sober. If you drink before getting your tattoo, get ready for some pain. Alcohol is classified as a blood thinner. When your blood thins, it’s more prone to bleeding and bruising. (Important!)
- Stay hydrated. Drink enough water before getting your tattoo. It’ll help your skin stay supple throughout the session. It’ll also help your tattoo heal faster after your session.
- Moisturize. Hydrating your skin doesn’t just mean drinking plenty of water. You should also take the liberty of applying moisturizer to keep your skin nice and hydrated from the outside.
- Take breaks. There will be moments in your tattoo session where the pain will just be too much to handle. This is normal. When this happens, feel free to ask your artist for a short break.
According to research, a person’s pain tolerance is directly affected by their experience with tattoos. This means that if you’ve had tattoos done in the past, you’ll likely feel less pain.
Jellyfish tattoos are out of this world. Very few tattoo design themes can come close to their level of mystique.
They’re symbols of danger, resistance, longevity, and wisdom. And because of these, they’ve come to be very popular tattoos.
Did you enjoy these x tattoo designs or are you looking for more inspiration? Check out the following links to see more designs from talented artists.