Shark Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning

Sharks are some of the most feared creatures on the face of the Earth, and the ideal symbol of danger, intimidation and defending your territory. A tat with their image is the perfect choice for anyone looking to underline these qualities in themselves, but they can also express a variety of other cultural and personal meanings. 

A vicious hunter, the shark circles its prey before attacking, so you can often see it inked swimming in this process. While some prefer having the whole shark tattooed, others opt to get just the fin or the mouth of the fish. 

Find out more about the best designs to personalize each meaning, plus the most common styles and placements for your shark ink.

A Quick Guide to the Shark as a Symbol

As a rule of thumb with animal tattoos, we seek to represent the characteristics they exude, and the shark is no exception.

There are over 500 species of sharks that reign our seas, among which include the tiger, blue, mako, and great white. Despite their differences, however, you can get any of them tattooed to carry as a symbol demanding respect.

Here are a few more nuances to consider: 

A Shark in the Tank

Anyone who watches Shark Tank can tell you about the hunger and drive that brings entrepreneurs their success when pitching ideas. 

On the other side of the tank, with this same hunger—but an equal amount of superiority—the investors are preparing to either fund or destroy them.

In this game of kill or be killed, only one thing is certain: to have the best possible outcome, you have to be a shark.

Are you the current or prospective owner of the next-best start-up out there? Do you aspire to be not only successful but the most successful one in your field? This tattoo may be just what you’re looking for to hone these traits, so they can serve you best in your pursuits. 

A shark tattoo is also perfect if you’re an investor, determined to support only the most deserving of ideas. 

A Maori Perspective

The white shark is the marine symbol of Western Australia. Maoris, who lived on these lands, saw sharks as guardian creatures, marking them as a spiritual emblem. 

A dive into their mythology unveils the story of a demi-god, who started the Milky Way by sending a shark into the sky. Maori also believed in a legend in which the shark served as a savior from a bigger and much more dangerous ocean monster. 

These two bring some much-needed layers to an otherwise feared and frowned-upon fish. 

Choosing to get a shark tattoo carries on the legacy of the shark as a helper in its own right, rather than a killer. If drawn in its according style, this tattoo can also be chosen as a totem for protection against enemies and negative influence. 

The Habits of a Shark

Sharks are fearless to the depths of the ocean. They come out to the shore when necessary, and hunt smaller fish and swim with their young ones. In addition, sharks live just as well in oceans as they do in coral reefs or the sea and can sustain life at a vast array of temperatures. 

With their flexibility in habitat and ability to provide for their families in any circumstance, sharks can be seen as a great symbol of adaptability and fearlessness.

If you, like the shark, have the ability to get through any difficulty life throws your way, a shark tattoo is a perfect option for you. 

How Should I Design My Shark Tattoo?

You can often see the shark tattoo in a hyperrealistic style, as many tattoo artists love the detail it requires to capture the fish in its entirety. 

Minimally-styled tattoos give us the opportunity of interpretation and are the ideal choice for you if you want to carry more than one of the shark’s meanings in the same tattoo. 

Find more ideas on how you can make your shark tattoo unique below:

As a Totem 

This design is a great idea to have as a symbol of belonging. 

It’s perfect also for the fans of celestial bodies and the cosmos; you might opt for getting this design to honor the Maori myth of how the Milky Way came to be. 

Choose to have it in the traditional black and red to have the full experience.

Cartoon Shark

If you didn’t appreciate the joys of a cartoon shark with Shark Tale in 2004, you can’t have missed Baby Shark.

The three-verse tune not only took over the world overnight but completely revamped the shark’s image in the public eye, turning it into more of a cute sea creature than the beast we were all accustomed to. 

A cartoon shark is a wonderful idea if you’re someone who considers themselves tough on the outside, but has a soft and loving side. To further emphasize this, you can place your tattoo on a part of the body that isn’t visible unless you choose to reveal it. 

Alternatively, you can use the cartoon style but ask for a fish with pronounced jaws and a drop of blood, to preserve its more violent symbolism. 

Outlines of a Fin

The shark’s fin cuts through the water seamlessly. Choosing to get the outlines of the shark’s fin on your skin can represent this same determination sharks have when swimming towards their prey.

The dorsal fin could also be tattooed on your body to always remind you of the need to seize opportunities as they present themselves. It may also be used to seamlessly represent the transition from one phase of life to another.

This is a perfect tattoo for your ankle, as its subtle nature still allows for visibility during the warmer months. As more of a minimal tattoo, it looks best in a single color, such as black or white, but some opt to get it in red for a more bloody appearance.


Sharks have anywhere from 2 to 15 rows of teeth that constantly fall out and get renewed. This doubles their danger, as it makes them always ready for battle. 

Feeling intimidated at the sight of a shark’s jaws is not uncommon, so it’s an effect to keep in mind if you’re looking to get an ink picturing only the mouthful of jaws.

To add to that effect, you can ask your tattoo artist for a big hyperrealistic tattoo at a more visible location, such as the biceps or upper back.

Three Sharks

The image of three sharks in succession and often from a bird’s view brings a special kind of threat. After all, if there’s anything scarier than a shark in your vicinity…it’s three sharks!

Popular Colors and Combinations 

Shark tattoos are most often blue, grey and black, but you can find sharks in a variety of colors, ranging from jet black to bubblegum pink.

Minimal ink choices suggest thin black or white lines, used to outline the shape of the shark or its fin. 

Cartoon sharks, depending on the inspiration, use vibrant colors such as bright red or yellow and a basis of grey, blue or black.

Take a quick look at an encyclopedia to decide which of the species you find the most attractive.

Best Body Placement for a Shark Tattoo

Shark tattoos are greatly universal, so they can be placed on almost any part of the body. Although shark tattoos can most commonly be seen on the forearms or biceps, here are a couple of other placements that may be of interest:


The back offers a broader area for the placement of the tattoo and it’s wide enough to contain a big design, embodying the strength and resilience against all adversities.

Cartoon sharks are especially vivid when inked on the back, and so are minimal tattoos that contain more than one meaning.


The ankle is a suitable place when you want smaller-sized tattoos that are also visible. Due to the thinness of skin, tattoos such as the dorsal fin come out more elaborate when inked on this body part than any of the more muscular ones.

Ankles can also hold space for a small tattoo of a full shark, as it can serve to represent the cunning nature of sharks. Although small in size, many of the shark species can smell blood from a mile away.

Best Shark Tattoos