For thousands of years, people across cultures have believed that the element of water influences the zodiac. The ancient Roman astrologer Claudius Ptolemy included water, fire, earth, and air as the four classical elements associated with the twelve signs of the zodiac wheel. In popular Western astrology, this elemental makeup remains, with each element governing three signs.
Water is a powerful and versatile force in the natural world. Essential for life, this element quenches thirst, softens skin, possesses mysterious oceanic depths, and is also the most effective agent of erosion on Earth. The wise and healing traits of water are common to the zodiac’s water signs: Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.
Understanding the Four Zodiac Elements
Each zodiac element endows its group of three signs, or triplicity, with certain qualities:
Water: Compassionate, spiritual, and intuitive
Fire: Inspired, enthusiastic, and daring
Earth: Secure, sensual, and realistic
Air: Rational, free-spirited, and sociable
Each zodiac sign represents a unique combination of one of the elements above and another facet known as modality. The modalities (cardinal, fixed, mutable) in astrology can teach you almost everything you need to know about how a sign prefers to direct its energy within a horoscope or birth chart. In general, cardinal signs like to create, fixed signs like to preserve, and mutable signs transform and refine.
Thus, the water signs each possess a distinct modality:
Cancer, cardinal modality, fourth sign of the zodiac
Scorpio, fixed modality, eighth sign of the zodiac
Pisces, mutable modality, twelfth sign of the zodiac
Water Signs: Traits and Personality
Water’s nourishing energy gives Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces many common personality traits. Water sign traits include a deep intuition, and they rely on gut instincts to navigate life. Their emotional sensitivity aids their intuition, allowing water signs to experience a wide range of emotions and empathize with others. Their adaptable nature serves them as they flow with life’s tides, adjusting to its rhythms.
As empaths, folks with water Sun signs tend to nurture others. Highly imaginative, they also often demonstrate artistic leanings. Because of their connection to the subconscious, they seek deeper meaning and spiritual understanding—and make space for others to explore these mysteries, too. Water signs welcome intensity as a conduit for intimacy, but they can ease any journey with equal skill.
Cancer (June 22 – July 21)
The fourth sign, Cancer, lends its caring instincts to the home and chosen family. Nurturing and protective in equal measure, Cancer folks have the gifts to ensure emotional security for their loved ones. However, these homebodies can be resentful if trust is broken, partly because they place such a high value on reliable and lasting relationships.
Cancer’s key traits relate to the following astrological facets:
The symbol of crab pincers (♋) emphasizes the ability to shield and safeguard.
As Cancer’s ruling planetary influence, the Moon is responsible for the sign’s ability to receive powerful messages subconsciously.
The fourth house explains the focus on home, family, ancestry, and, often, parenting.
In combination with water, the cardinal modality creates strong leadership from the heart through the gift of connecting empathically with others.
As friends, Cancer people are extremely devoted. Because they prioritize emotional connection, their intimates will know them for their nurturing presence, intuitive listening, and willingness to provide a nonjudgmental space for authentic expression. Though Cancers might be a little possessive and prone to having hurt feelings, their loyalty can guide them toward radical acceptance of the people they love.
In relationships, Scorpio and Pisces are on the same wavelength as emotionally attuned Cancer. But Cancer’s compatibility with the earth signs (Capricorn, Virgo, and Taurus) can also feel profoundly safe and cozy. Cancer Suns respond well to those who can care for them in simple, consistent ways.
Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)
Among the water sign triplicity, Scorpio brings the qualities associated with the solid phase: ice. Like ice, Scorpio Suns exhibit a cool, impassive demeanor that can hold intense depth and transformative potential. The determined nature of Scorpio leads them to seek truth and command respect, though controlling behaviors are possible if these tendencies are unchecked. Still, Scorpios captivate others with ease.
The Scorpio personality profile draws on the following symbols:
The scorpion stinger (♏) represents the ability to effect powerful change at any moment.
The eighth house connects Scorpio to taboos such as death, sexuality, mysticism, and releasing attachments.
As a student of Pluto, Scorpio knows well how controlled destruction can make way for new energy.
A fixed modality makes Scorpio the most unwavering and relentless of the water signs when it comes to goals.
Those who wish to befriend Scorpios might need to prepare for long periods of building trust. Fixed water sign Scorpio values loyalty and depth within their small but select group of confidants. Friends of Scorpio will also observe ongoing relational metamorphosis, from initial allure to interchanging phases of intensity and distance. A Scorpio softens for friends, but betrayal is intolerable.
Fellow water signs (Pisces and Cancer) can perhaps best understand Scorpio’s emotional and sometimes even mystical drives. However, the earth signs (Taurus, Capricorn, and Virgo) offer complementary energy. Scorpio can appreciate the measured way that earth signs approach the achievement of material goals, which satisfies the Scorpio need for safety and influence. The phrase “power couple” might describe these unions.
Pisces (February 19 – March 20)
As the final sign of a zodiac cycle that’s preparing to renew, Pisces is most like water’s vapor state: enchanting, ethereal, and easily flowing between reality and the beyond. With a profound faith in universal interconnectedness, Pisces is especially selfless and adaptable. In fact, these natives can lose themselves in relationships, sometimes due to misplaced trust.
Pisces’ tendencies draw from a variety of symbols and influences:
Two tied fish (♓) represent our interconnectedness, faith, and the relationship between fantasy and reality.
The twelfth house also emphasizes dreaming and all the mysteries that lie dormant within the self.
Ruling planet Neptune, the planet of dreams, brings imagination and interest in exploring illusions.
Pisces releases the past, supports healing, and accepts change most readily of the water signs due to its mutable modality.
Pisces friends are sensitive to energies, elevating shared spaces by amplifying the positive. These empathetic individuals sense what provides comfort to others, whether that’s holding space or offering nonjudgmental advice. They form deep connections, and they’re willing to sacrifice much for them. But if the vibes are off, don’t be surprised if they’re hard to pin down—but no hard feelings!
In love, Pisces feels supported and seen by the mystical openness of the other water signs (Cancer and Scorpio), with supportive Cancer especially encouraging Pisces’ creativity. Earth sign Virgo, however, loves Pisces through everyday acts of service, keeping the fish grounded in tangible evidence of care. The other earth signs (Taurus and Capricorn) also complement Pisces as reassuring, stable friends.