Aqua Illumination or AI is one of the original companies that pioneered LED aquarium lighting and made it available to the masses. The current AI Prime and Hydra HD fixtures are still some of the best and most affordable high quality LED lights you can put over your tank. Recently, they’ve taken the leap into the circulation pump market in a big way with the release of the Nero 5 powerhead.

AI’s sister company, Ecotech Marine is known for their innovative Vortech pumps which feature a very low profile by keeping wires and motors on the outside of the tank and it would seem that AI took a cue from Ecotech’s success by delivering the NERO 5 pump with a compact design and very high output.

Don't be misled though because,the Nero 5 pump is an innovation that is strikingly different in a number of ways.

With a standard pump design, the rotor is located inside of the stator with the propeller on the end of the shaft.

The Nero 5 utilizes an inverse motor design with the stator on the inside and the rotor on the outside, which is the opposite of what we would typically expect. This makes it possible to achieve a slim profile with a large propeller that will produce the wide and gentle flow patterns we need inside our reef tanks.

Another thing that you’ll notice as you examine the propeller are the small holes here which allow for water to flow through the pump, keeping it cool.

You will also notice how easy it is to disassemble this pump for easy cleaning. Just twist off the cage, and remove the propeller. This is helpful since a lot of us may be slacking on our routine pump maintenance.

"Let's be honest, the easier it is to get the job done, the more likely we are to actually do it on a regular basis." - Robert @ MD

 Another welcome feature of this low profile pump is the ability to adjust its direction by up to 15 degrees. Where Vortech pumps cannot be aimed inside of a tank, the Nero 5 keeps an equally low profile while adding some flexibility.

The innovation here is that the pump is actually not attached to the mount mechanically. Instead, it is held in place magnetically on a concave surface allowing the pump to be aimed.

Still, as is often the case, there is somewhat of a trade off in features when it comes to these low profile pumps. Vortech users frequently mention that they love not having any wires in the tank. The Nero 5 has the feature of being directable, but this requires a wire to be located inside the tank. 

Additionally, the low profile is what limits the direction to 15 degrees.  Other, more standard model pumps, take up more space but ultimately deliver a larger turn radius for directing flow.

Ultimately, the right pump for you is really based on the features that are most important to you.  

The inline controller keeps with the standard of low profile, simple design we’ve seen already in the pump. The 1-button controller is about the size of a lighter.

The button on the controller can be used to adjust the speed of the pump in 20% increments, turn on feed mode, turn the pump on and off and perform a factory reset.

In addition to the manual controller, you can really unlock the power of control by taking advantage of the myAI app which can be downloaded for free onto your mobile device.

The app operates off of Bluetooth LE to connect with the pump so syncing and connecting is quick and easy. Literally can be done in about 10 seconds. 

The 3 pre-set flow modes can be organized into a full flow schedule with varying times and pump speed. Additionally, if you have multiple pumps, they can be synchronized to optimize flow with a child and parent type relationship. You can even create tank profiles for controlling multiple pumps as well as any Ai-Fi LED Lights (Prime & Hydra HD), all from a single app. 

Here at MD we have a couple of the AI Nero 5 pumps in the Red Sea Reefer tank.  I set them up on the back walls so I could eliminate any pumps from being mounted on the ends. Pump placement and flow scheduling are crucial in this case to ensure that we achieve the flow we need throughout the entire tank using only two pumps.  

I programmed the pump to run in pulse mode for a majority of the day. I  took advantage of the scheduled feed mode to happen from 10:00 - 10:30 AM which is nice because it coincides with a scheduled feed hold via our GHL controller which will turn off the return pump and protein skimmer at the same time. The pumps then go into a high powered random mode for a few hours after the feeding to help keep any leftover food suspended.

The final step was adding the second pump into our schedule and set up the parent child relationship. I opened the second pump and dragged the CHILD option into the timeline. I chose the previously programmed pump as the parent and now the pumps will be doing the exact same thing at the same time typically referred to as a SYNC mode.

I really wanted the pumps to alternate or ANTI-SYNC to achieve a more dynamic flow pattern in the tank. To accomplish this, you need to use the PHASE setting which is found in the CHILD mode settings.

When the Phase is set to 0% the pumps will sync or match, when set to 90% the pumps will chase each other by about 0.5 second and when set at 180%, the pumps will operate as a true anti-sync in which they are functioning opposite each other.  

This flow pattern is currently working out great in our Red Sea Reefer and if you wish to learn more about programming your NERO 5 pump, just visit the support page at or contact the Marine Depot Technical Support Team anytime for fast, free and friendly service.

We also have a nice video interview with Aqua Illumination from MACNA 2018 in which we get answers directly from the manufacturer so be sure to check that out on YouTube.