Skip to content

Blog

2

For a low cost aquarium light fixture, the Nicrew LED lineup is an amazing value.

There are a lot of options out there for illuminating your aquarium. The aquarium lighting you choose will depend on your specific aquarium dimensions, budget, and aesthetic preferences. If you're not setting up a "high tech" planted aquarium, you will probably want to save money by choosing a lower cost LED fixture. If you're a fan of DIY projects you can build your own aquarium light. But if you want an affordable, quality fixture that looks a little nicer, Nicrew LED Aquarium Lights are an excellent option.

Nicrew ClassicLED on 10g dirted tank
Nicrew ClassicLED on 10g dirted tank

I own four of these light fixtures in a couple different sizes and styles.  All of them have been working without issues, running 8-9 hours per day in my fish room for several months. The oldest one has been running consistently for about 2 years at the time of this review. This gave me a pretty long time to evaluate them for quality and performance, and identify some pros and cons.

Note: The ClassicLED pictured on several of my tanks has since been upgraded to the ClassicLED Plus model, at a very similar cost but with a nicer aluminum housing and better light output. Sizes may be slightly different on newer models. Exact specifications are not listed here due to the fact that Nicrew continues to update their product line.

I paid for all of the Nicrew aquarium light fixtures that I own and did not receive any compensation from Nicrew for this review. I have purchased and tested the older ClassicLED, the ClassicLED Plus, and the SKyLED model.

Nicrew LED Aquarium Light - Pros

Nicrew ClassicLED on 10g planted tank
Nicrew ClassicLED on 10g planted tank

Long LED Lifespan / Efficiency

The best thing about LED aquarium fixtures is that they last for years. A standard T5 light bulb for an older style aquarium light fixture can cost $15-$20, and will need to be replaced eventually. The performance of T5 bulbs also degrades over time, while LEDs maintain their output.

LEDs have a higher lumen output per watt than fluorescent bulbs, which means you can get more light for less electricity. If you have multiple aquariums, this savings adds up. Nicrew LED Aquarium Lights run cooler and use less electricity than T5 fixtures.

Low Cost

If you've looked into different LED aquarium light options, you have seen that some fixtures cost upwards of $300. A high end fixture may be appropriate if you are running a heavily planted display tank with injected CO2, but for the average aquarist that extra output will most likely mean algae issues. Nicrew LEDs are a good option for low light planted tanks, and cost significantly less than many competitors.

Quality Construction & Slim Profile

Since the "ClassicLED" was upgraded to the "ClassicLED Plus", Nicrew's whole lineup of lights is built using aluminum housings, rather than plastic. I frequently set things on top of them and get them wet while working in my fish room, so I can testify to their water resistance and durability. That doesn't mean they can be submerged in water - just that a little water on the housing is not going to do any damage.

The thickness of all the Nicrew lights I've tried is less than an inch - the SKyLED model is the thinnest at barely 1/2 inch thick. This slim profile makes the lights look very sleek on top of your aquarium.

Nicrew SkyLED
Nicrew SkyLED
Nicrew ClassicLED
Nicrew ClassicLED

Nicrew LED Aquarium Light - Cons

Limited Output

Although Nicrew LEDs can be used for lower light planted tanks - I grow plants under all of mine - they don't have the power to turn your stem plants bright red, or grow a thick carpet of utricularia graminifolia. If you are a hardcore aquascaper, or plan to run CO2, these lights won't cut it for your application.

To achieve a higher light level for better growth, I use two Nicrew fixtures on my planted 20 gallon aquarium. A single fixture delivering the same output would be optimal, but this configuration works with good results.

Two 20" CLassicLED Nicrew LEDs on a 20g planted tank
Two 20" CLassicLED Nicrews on a 20g planted tank

Lack of Hanging Hardware*

Nicrew LED aquarium light fixtures are designed to sit on the outside rim of a standard aquarium. The "ClassicLED" models don't have any good mounting points for hanging or include any hardware for this purpose. That may or may not be a problem, depending on your application.

*The Nicrew "SkyLED" fixture does have built-in sliding hooks for hanging, but doesn't include wire or any other hanging hardware.

Summary

For a low cost aquarium light fixture, the Nicrew LED lineup is an amazing value. They won't satisfy the most hardcore aquascapers, but they do a great job of growing lower light plants such as java fern, anubias, mosses, crypts, floating plants, etc.

If you need more information, head over to Amazon.com and check out the reviews there. These lights are popular for a reason.

Nicrew ClassicLED on 20g long tank
Nicrew ClassicLED on 20g long tank

Microworms - which are actually nematodes, not worms - are a convenient live food because cultures can be maintained almost indefinitely with very little maintenance.

Microworms - which are actually nematodes, not worms - are a convenient live food because cultures can be maintained almost indefinitely with very little maintenance.  Unlike live brine shrimp, microworms don't have to be hatched and then immediately fed to your fish. An individual culture will last 4-6 weeks, with live worms being harvested and fed every day.

Microworms are a good food for fry that are too small to consume baby brine shrimp or dry foods. In my fish room I feed them to Melanotaenia Praecox (dwarf neon rainbowfish) fry because their mouths are not big enough to eat baby brine shrimp for their first 1-2 weeks. 

I shot the video below using a small microscope to show microworms moving in water. The larger hash marks are 1 mm apart, the largest microworms are about 1 mm in length, however they are only about 0.1 mm wide. This allows very small fish to slurp them up like noodles. You can also see much smaller worms that are only 0.2 - 0.3 mm long. The round objects are pieces of potato flake from the culture.

microworms under a microscope

How to Start a Microworm Culture

The first step to starting your own mircoworm farm is to obtain a starter culture. These can be found for sale on eBay, Amazon.com, or through local fish shops and aquarium clubs. A starter culture will be relatively inexpensive (usually around $10 for a good culture) and the best part is you will only have to pay this one time. Some people out there are selling cultures for as low as $3-$4*, but I strongly recommend paying slightly more for a culture that comes with worms, yeast, a container, and some instructions to get you started.

*I tried buying a culture for less than $4, and when it arrived it was a tiny bag in a standard letter envelope containing about a teaspoon of worms that smelled like death. It was a waste of money & time.

Once you have a starter culture and you begin setting up your own cultures, you should be able to keep live microworms available for your fish for as long as you want. The video below by Aquarium Co-op has a lot of good information on how and why you should set up a microworm culture.

Selecting a Container for your Microworm Culture

You can use just about any plastic container for a microworm culture, as long as it has a lid and a flat bottom to spread the culture media on. I like to use plastic containers from salad mix or packaged lunch meat that have been washed out.

Microworm Cultures
Microworm Cultures

Nematodes need oxygen to live. I use a utility knife to cut small air holes in the lid of the container. These holes don't need to be very big, just enough to allow some air to reach the culture. 

Utility Knife
Utility Knife

Selecting a Medium for your Microworm Culture

I use an instant potato mix as the base for my microworm cultures, as recommended by Aquarium Co-op. Other options include oatmeal, cornmeal, and baby cereal. Any of these soft grain mixes will work, but I've found the potato mix to be very cheap and easy to use. Just make sure whatever you buy has no additives.

Potato Mix
Potato Mix

Starting a Microworm Culture

Once you have starter worms, a container, potatoes, and some bakers yeast, you can mix up a new culture.

  1. Pour enough mashed potato mix into the container to cover the bottom with about a half inch layer. This will expand when water is added.
  2. Add water from an aquarium and stir until the mixture is similar to mashed potatoes. You don't want it too runny or too dry, it should look like the photo on the box.
  3. Smooth out the mixture in the container
  4. Add a little bit of baker's yeast, and gently stir it into the top layer of the mix
  5. Smooth out the mixture and add two spoonfuls of aquarium water to wet the top
  6. Add the worms from your starter culture to the top of the mix, put the lid on the container (make sure you date it!) and wait a few days (3-5 days on average)
  7. Once you can see the top of the mixture shimmering or wiggling, you know the worms are multiplying. They can now be harvested using your finger or a spoon, paintbrush, etc. Just dunk them into the aquarium!
New Microworm Culture
New Microworm Culture

Keeping Your Microworms Going

To make sure you never run out of microworms, its a good idea to always have 2 active cultures. I start a new culture every 3-4 weeks. Make sure you write the date you started the culture on the container!

Your existing cultures should be stirred gently about once a week to keep them thriving. They will have a vinegar-like smell to them, which is normal. If you can see live worms and don't see any mold, it is probably still good. Eventually the culture will start to stink badly or grow mold, and it should be discarded. This will happen after several weeks.


1

Outdoor Guppy Tub
Outdoor Guppy Tub

Outdoor Fish "Tubbing"

Keeping fish in small, temporary outdoor ponds or tubs is often referred to as "tubbing" among fishkeepers. The most popular fish to keep in tubs are probably live-bearers. This includes guppies, Endlers, mollies, platys, and many other species. These tubs are unfiltered and in many cases go an entire season without a water change. This summer I'm keeping guppies in a 100 gallon container in my back yard.

What Temperatures Can Guppies Survive Outside?

Unlike goldfish and koi, guppies can't survive outdoors in cold weather. While most sources will list the minimum acceptable temperature for guppies anywhere from 65°F - 72°F, they can tolerate water as cold as 60°F for short periods of time.

Where I live in Colorado, there is only about a 3 month window every year when temperatures are consistently warm enough for a guppy tub. The chart below shows daily average high and low temperatures specific to my area.

Colorado Average Monthly Temp
Colorado Average Monthly Temp

Water doesn't heat or cool as quickly as the surrounding air. This means the water in an outdoor tub usually won't reach the daily high or low temperature on a given day, it will drift gradually between them. The average water temperature should be near the center of the daily range. There will also be a temperature gradient between the water's surface and the bottom of the tub, assuming it is sufficiently large.

Actual Guppy Tub Temperature Observations

During the month of June I took temperature readings of my guppy tub at least once every day, up to 3 observations per day, for a total of 55 observations. The data I collected is shown in the chart below. You can see that on very hot days the water temperature (measured using a floating thermometer at the surface) reached as high as 86 degrees. This only lasted a few hours until the sun set, but I am planning on setting up some afternoon shade for the tub going into the hottest part of the year. As you might expect from historical weather data, the average water temp observed in June was 71.5°F.

Note: All of these temperature observations were made at various times throughout the day between 7:00 AM and 7:30 PM.  The highest temperatures were observed in the late afternoon after several hours of direct sun.

Water Temperature of the Guppy Tub Throughout June 2019
Water Temperature of the Guppy Tub Throughout June 2019

High 86
Low 58
Average 71.5

I kept the guppies in an unheated aquarium indoors at 68°F - 70°F for several months in preparation for this project, during which time they continued to breed and grow. I did not observe any deaths during the month shown here, and saw new fry after about 3 weeks of the guppies being in the tub. Based on my observations, guppies are able to tolerate relatively large daily swings in temperature, as long as the extremes are not too hot (above ~90ºF) or too cold (below ~60ºF).

Outdoor Guppy Tub Container

I chose a 100 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank for this guppy tub project.

100 Gallon Rubbermaid Stock Tank
100 Gallon Rubbermaid Stock Tank

I've seen others use rain barrels, kiddie pools, pond liners, etc. I wouldn't use anything that holds less than 40-50 gallons, because water parameters are going to be more stable in a larger volume of water. You should also avoid any container that is too tall and skinny, as this will make viewing and catching the fish difficult. Stock tanks (horse troughs) are the ideal shape for a garden pond.

Guppy Tub on Day 1
Guppy Tub on Day 1

Outdoor Guppy Tub Plants

Floating Plants
Floating Plants

Plants are an essential requirement for outdoor fish tubbing. Since you won't be performing many water changes, plants will help to remove excess nitrogen. They also compete with algae for nutrients. A pond without any plants will quickly turn green after a few days of sunlight. Any aquatic or marginal plant could be used in an outdoor guppy tub project. Some common pond plants include water lilies and water lettuce.

Shop Pond Plants on Amazon

I set up this pond with some duckweed & water lettuce from my Endler breeding aquarium.  I also added a large portion of najas/guppy grass. Guppy grass can be grown either rooted or as a floater, and is often used in breeding live-bearers. Floating plants are a good choice for an outdoor tub because the roots provide shade and cover for the fish, and they don't require any substrate.

Adding Fish to an Outdoor Tub

Ideally you'd want to have an outdoor tub filled and planted for several days before introducing fish. This gives the water an opportunity to age in the sun, as algae grows and infusoria begin to develop. I added water from established aquariums to my 100 gallon stock tank, and let it sit for 3 days before adding any fish. As mentioned above, I also prepared my guppies by keeping them in an unheated aquarium all spring before they moved into the tub.

Guppies
Guppies

Maintaining Water Quality in an Outdoor Tub

Water Changes

In a perfect world, all water that evaporated out of a tub would be replaced by rainwater, and all wastes would be absorbed by the plants. Of course that's not the world we live in. You should check the nitrates in an outdoor tub just like you would with an aquarium, and do a water change if they rise over 20 ppm. I've found that a 30% water change every 2 weeks is adequate in my pond. This probably wouldn't be necessary if I had enough plants to entirely cover the surface.

Aeration

I use a solar powered air pump to oxygenate the water. I plan on going into more detail on this build in a separate post, but you can get the solar panel I'm using here on Amazon. You'll also need an air pump that can run off USB power, which I got from Aquarium Coop (https://www.aquariumcoop.com/). You can also buy them on Amazon. This pump runs about 10-11 hours per day (you know, solar) and does a good job keeping the water from getting stagnant.