It is rare to have an encounter with a sea creature. But out encounters will often be spiritual and emotional moments. Whether it’s an encounter in the wild, a dream, or a realization that a sea creature is your spirit animal, interpreting what that means is not easy.
Interpretations of the symbolism of animals is personal and subjective. But looking at what others have seen in the animals throughout time, culture, history and religions can be a guiding light to help you find meaning in your encounters.
This A-Z list of sea creature symbolism provides a basic introduction to each creature. Click the links under each animal to learn more about the meanings behind the animals.
Sea Creature Symbolism (A-Z List)
The main crab symbol is defensiveness. They have a hard shell, large claws, and a feisty attitude when approached. Dreaming about a crab could mean that you feel vulnerable and are in need of protection. It may also mean that you’re currently seeking independence. A crab as a spirit animal comes to people who are introverted and guarded.
Dolphins are very sociable, friendly and playful animals. They’re also incredibly smart – the humans of the sea! So, it’s no wonder that dolphins represent intelligence, playfulness, communication, and peace. If a dolphin is your spirit animal, they help you to communicate and encourage you to seek your inner child. A dolphin in a dream might be trying to guide you toward safety.
Goldfish are abundant in our homes and even traditional Chinese gardens. And many of their symbolic meanings stem straight from ancient Chinese folk lore. In general, goldfish are very well regarded animals. They’re considered to bring great luck, calm and prosperity to people. Dreaming of yourself holding a goldfish is also a symbol of great good fortune, particularly for women looking to get married!
Jellyfish are animals that float around the ocean, often being buffered and pushed around by the currents. So they often end up symbolizing flow – and especially going with the flow. When seeing them in dreams, you’re often reminded to stop resisting the currents and allow them to push you in the directions they’re sending you.
Killer whales (also known as orcas) are very family-oriented animals. They stick to their packs and often attack you if you try to get in the way of the family. When you dream about an orca, some people think it means success will be coming your way. But playing with an orca often means you’ll be re-kindling a friendship with someone you have previously been arguing with.
Koi fish have very strong symbolic meanings in Chinese and Japanese cultures. Believers in Feng Shui will often turn to the koi fish for courage, wealth and abundance, and luck. You will often find koi fish in Japanese and Chinese gardens, which give them a balanced and peaceful feeling that is often associated with Feng Shui. Furthermore, different colored koi fish carry with them different meanigns.
Lobsters, much like crabs, are very protective animals with hard shells to defend them from predators. Often, when someone sees a lobster in their dreams or believes their spirit animal is a lobster, it’s sending you a message to come out of your shell. A molting lobster (where it sheds its skin) might be telling you that you need to get rid of some of the negative influences in your life.
Manta rays have three main symbols. The first is strength – a manta ray might be telling you to seek strength in your life and always negotiate from a position of strength. The second is adaptability – you need to be more adaptable. And the third is the ability to handle pressure. The manta ray as a spirit animal might be by your side while you need strength in stressful situations.
Pelicans symbolize many things. One top thing that pelicans represent is teamwork. Pelicans have very strong social skills and work together well. They also represent sacrifice. There’s a very peculiar concept called pelican vulning, which involves the mother penguin stabbing herself so her babies can consume her blood. So a penguin may become the spirit animal for a person who has a caring and social personality.
Penguins are fascinating creatures because they mate for life, there is evidence that penguins can be in gay relationships, and they’re incredibly intuitive animals! One of the most common symbols of penguins, especially in dreams, is to “dive deeper”. Penguins are deep divers, so we often interpret their representation in dreams as a sign that you need to explore something in “more depth”.
Polar bears are symbolic of independence and strength. That’s why many people interpret polar bears as a symbol that you should stand on your own two feet, be an independent person, and find your own inner strength. Other key symbols include determination and respect.
Sea horses are seen as magical creatures – they’re the pixies of the sea! And like many magical little creatures, we often consider the sighting of a sea horse as a good luck sign. Sea horses are also highly patriarchal creatures, so a sea horse is also often considered to be a sign of masculinity. In your dream, it may mean a masculine figure will be coming into your life.
Seals are said to be able to inspire your imaginative side of your brain. They are imaginative and creative animals and therefore might be sending you a message to be more imaginative if you spot them in dreams. Other interpretations might be that they want you to be more playful (‘seek your inner child’) and think more deeply about something on your mind.
Sharks are apex predators who stalk the seas for prey. Because of their identity as apex predators, they often symbolize power, strength, authority and determination. They can also symbolize greed because they are stealthy, bullying animals that will do whatever they want to get their way.
But often, it’s the shark tooth that’s the most symbolic element. Many people buy shark teeth and wear them as necklaces because they’re said to bring protection against foes.
Stingrays are predators of the sea, but they hang out on the bottom and like to blend in with the sand. Their ability to smoothly swim around and navigate the bottom of the ocean often makes people interpret the stingray as a symbol of movement and guidance. In a dream, this idea of ‘movement’ often leads people to interpret the stingray as a sign you should ‘move on’ and forget about past problems.
Being cute and playful creatures, we often interpret the otter to be a symbol of childishness and playfulness. Their ability to create complex dens also makes them a symbol of creativity. If an otter comes to you, it’s often a symbol that you should embrace this playfulness and creativity, put aside the stresses in your life, and look optimistically to the future.
Interpreting the symbolism of sea creatures often occurs after to see them in dreams, recognize them as your spirit animal, or have a remarkable encounter with one in the wild. In these situations, you’ll often want to figure out some ways you might be able to interpret the encounter.
Remember, there are many different possible interpretations of each encounter and they all need to be considered in the context of the situation.
But by looking at what others have interpreted can help guide you toward uncovering the true meaning of what you have seen.
I’m a Scorpio, I love the outdoors, and I’ve written articles in some major online publications like Medium and The Weekly. My favorite metaphor? Anything that’s got to do with baseball. I’m fascinated by the fact our language has baseball weaved all through it. Read more about me here.