A clad modified optical fiber gas sensor for sensing volatile organic compound vapours (VOCs) such as formaldehyde (HCHO), ammonia (NH3), ethanol (C2H5OH) and methanol (CH3OH) up to 500 ppm was studied using nanocrystalline nickel oxide embedded coatings. Prior to the measurements, nickel oxide in two different crystallite sizes such as 24 nm and 76 nm was synthesized by calcination of reverse precipitated nickel hydroxide subsequently at 450 °C and 900 °C for 30 min. Then, samples physical properties were characterized using X-ray diffraction (XRD), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM) and high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM). Our gas sensing measurement concludes that the lower crystallite size (24 nm) nickel oxide nanocrystals exhibits superior performance to formaldehyde and ethanol vapours as compared with other two VOCs, the observed experimental results were discussed in detail. © 2017 Elsevier Inc.