At first glance, the Archerfish does not seem particularly extraordinary; brown with silver stripes and being a fore and a half long. Only by studying it for a somewhat longer period of time would you notice the small bursts of water exploding with arrow-like force from above the swimming fish. The Archerfish has the remarkable ability to shoot bursts of water up to one and a half peds from the surface to knock out insects with great accuracy. It is found only in the Drifting Woods at the continent of Nybelmar and makes its home in the open tree roots, though it does roam constantly.
Archerfish have very thin bodies that glide seamlessly through the
water. They are darting fish, and use these
slick bodies to their advantage. The entire body is a shade of brown, but silver
streaks can be seen on the side. These silver lines are the only things that
allow people to see the fish in the murky waters.
Still it is difficult to notice when an Archerfish swims quickly by in front of
you. In total, Archerfish tend to be about a
fore and a half long
counting the tail.
The tail of the Archerfish is very aerodynamic like the rest of the body. The caudal fin is the same width as the midsection of the body. Although the tail does have a very deep fork, the caudal fin formed by the fork is symmetrical. When the fish is swimming, the tail moves at an almost impossible speed due to very strong muscles in this area. Though you might think this makes the Archerfish a fast swimmer, it is a little too heavy to be a very speedy swimmer, being slightly heavier than a hafeb. That’s not to say they are anywhere as slow as the mogo, far from it. They simply do not have the speed of the lysh pike, for example.
The main body is roughly triangular, and the stomach is almost completely flat until it narrows off at the mouth. The pectoral fins are longer, about five nailsbreadths, and pointed, while pelvic fins are almost non-existent. Archerfish have two anal fins which start at the same point on both sides of the fish, and extend outwards along the body in a shape almost like wings on birds. Inside these fins are tiny holes that have a soft covering on females, and no covering on males. These are used for reproduction.
The mouth is particularly narrow and fairly deep, as the front part is almost like a small tube and is used to shoot water out from the area of the gills. The gills are located just above the pectoral fins and slightly closer to the head. Archerfish gills are made up of small tubes that end in tissue covered holes. The tubes have small coverings on the other end that can be closed and opened at will. They are usually left open to allow the fish to breathe.
The Archerfish has two special abilities that make it a fairly unique fish.
Unlike many other fish, the Archerfish has the ability to temporarily close its
gills so water is trapped inside. When the
need arises, the Archerfish can expel water
very forcibly and shoot down insects. When it blows out
water, the gills momentarily shut and the
mouth becomes narrow to form a small channel. The muscles in the mouth tighten,
and the tube-like structure at the front of the mouth contracts slightly, though
this slowly releases as more water is
expelled. The stream of water can be used to
shoot down insects, as it is approximately two
nailsbreadths in diameter
and two peds long!
Unfortunately, the Archerfish can not usually hit single insects more than a
peds and a half away because
of accuracy. The exceptions to this include pack hunting insects such as the
needle fly, as well as larger insects, specifically
Camouflage is apparent in the obvious colour matches between the muddy water and the brown scales, and few bugs flying above the surface have the eyesight to see the flashes of silver formed by the streaks on their sides, thus ensuring the Archerfish usually has the element of surprise.
Territory. The Drifting Woods are the only known home of the Archerfish. Forming the northern part of Moredein Kaerath on Nybelmar, the Drifting Woods are surrounded by these plains on two sides. Not only do they have a vast resource of insects for the Archerfish to consume, they also have dark waters that the Archerfish is totally at home in. Due to their good taste and popularity with local men and mer as a main course, much of the Archerfish’s life must be spent darting from one form of cover to another. The tree roots and plants that cover most of the lower portion of the Drifting Woods provide that necessary cover.
Habitat/Behaviour. Archerfish are usually found alone in the water, but sometimes as many as ten or twenty of them can be found if there is a large collection of insects in one spot. One of the most amazing sites in the Drifting Woods is seeing a group of needle flies attacked by five or ten Archerfish. Spurts of water come shooting out of the water and the needle flies fall out of the air.
Throughout the year, the Archerfish must avoid being swept up in the rushing whirlpool as the eingana whelp takes in the vast quantities of water it needs to survive. During the winter, the whelp might actually try to eat the tasty Archerfish due to a lack of fruits and vegetables. The oloy also finds the Archerfish to be a good meal, and on the occasion this large mammal is traveling with the Soéliveche, this tribe of Nybelmar might catch and feed the Archerfish to the oloy. Another predator known to hunt the Archerfish is the Starwell Phaert, during its younger years. Later on the Archerfish will provide too little nutrition for the beast, making Starwells inhabited by fully grown phaert a fairly safe place for the Archerfish.
One of the biggest reasons the Archerfish falls victim to these predators is because of its habit of roaming the dark waters. While an Archerfish does usually have a place of abode, the amount of time spent on traversing the Drifting Woods is huge, and they have been known to spend weeks just “camping” in various safe houses they discover throughout their journeying. In the way that the drell is known to explore every nook and cranny of their own home, the Archerfish is known to take years to know every nook and cranny within as much as a day’s journey of their home.
When swimming, the Archerfish tends to move at an easy going speed until it reaches an open area in the water. At this point, it is very careful to dart across this area quickly, finding cover on the other side. Much of the swimming that it actually does is near the surface, allowing its water-shooting ability to work to the utmost, by giving them the maximum range.
Diet. There is such an abundance of food in the large amounts of small insects in the Drifting Woods, a starving Archerfish is said to be about as a rare as finding a bloodstone in the middle of Sarvonia. Some insects that actually live in the water are consumed as well, since the Archerfish does not live simply off shooting down flying insects. On the other hand, they are remarkably good shots, and can shoot down almost any flying insect that is anywhere near the water. The force of water actually momentarily stuns the objects, and by the time they can function again, they have long since been swallowed.
The Archerfish does not eat shell fish, as it has no tool in its arsenal with which to remove the meat from the shell.
The fish-tick beetle is the only insect the Archerfish blatantly ignores. This is, of course, because of their valuable role in the reproduction cycle of the Archerfish.
Mating. The Archerfish mates very quickly. The female can mate only once, though the male can mate multiple times. When two Archerfish do decide to mate, the first step is actually to find a fish-tick beetle. Fish-tick beetles are known specifically for eating dead tissue and skin, and when the female is ready to mate, through an unknown process, the skin in this area quickly dies. This ensures the deetle doesn't eat the skin until the female is ready to mate. The removal of this tissue allows reproduction, and is a signal for males so that they are sure to never court a female who can no longer reproduce. If the tissue is gone, stay away.
After this time is up, the female lays about six to eight eggs in a very secluded group of trees. Usually, it can find a very safe hollow within the roots, visible only by careful observation. These eggs are undeveloped, and are only about half a nailsbreadth in width. Most of the development of the eggs is actually done outside of the fish and the eggs take another year to fully mature and only at this time are the babies hatched. There are usually many more female eggs than male eggs, about a two to one ratio.
As soon as the eggs are hatched, the male leaves and the females are left to take care of the newborns. This process sounds difficult, but because of the rapid rate at which they mature, only about a month to reach full size, the mother is actually not unduly challenged. After that month, both genders can begin mating, though it usually takes much longer for the fish to find a suitable mate. The males are usually the aggressor, conducting the mating ritual of nudging them on the back of the head until they agree to mate. They must be very carefully as to not aggravate a female by not checking to make sure the tissue between their anal fins is still intact. This is almost never a problem, but if it does happen the female will answer by fiercely by blowing water in the face of the male.
Archerfish have life spans of about ten human years, but the speed at which they reproduce, and how quickly the young mature, means they are unlikely to ever become underpopulated.
Males are known to mate often, but it is possible some go through life without mating at all. An important factor is that more than one male can court a female, and sometimes due to competition, some males are definitely left out, since it becomes, ultimately, the female's choice.
Usages. The physical appearance of the Archerfish’s mouth has led to the development of the Ter’ei’Vikh blowgun. This tribe favours ranged weapons, and this one has the advantage of being non-lethal or lethal depending on the poison in the dart.
Aside from this, the Archerfish is a popular food with the Ter'ei'Vikh locals. Although fish is not the largest part of their diet, the Archerfish is eaten on occasion. Many other fish populate the Drifting Woods, as well as shellfish on the coast, so the Ter'ei'Vikh do not come close to hunting these abundant fish to extinction.