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Glass Vs Acrylic Aquarium (Pros & Cons)

Image by makeitsomarketing from Pixabay
Image by makeitsomarketing from Pixabay

Glass Vs Acrylic Aquarium (Pros & Cons)

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Are you looking to purchase an aquarium? If yes, you’ve two main choices: glass or acrylic. Since the 1970s, the debate between a glass vs. acrylic aquarium has been a hot topic. When comparing glass vs. acrylic aquariums, note that both can hold water quite well.

Which kind of fish tank should you go for? – Glass vs. acrylic aquariums, and which option is the best for you? It is worth noting that in the acrylic vs. glass aquarium debate, there is no clear winner. This is because each option has something distinct and unique to offer. As a result, you will need to make a choice that can suit your needs, preferences, and requirements best.

Before purchasing a new aquarium, it is important to consider the unique needs of the fish you want to keep, the care your fish tank will require, as well as the place you will keep it. It is better to buy an aquarium locally. This is because shipping costs and insurance expenses negate the benefits of mail-order. However, it does not mean that you will have to simply accept the product’s sticker price. You will be pleased to know that many shop owners often entertain reasonable offers if you are a serious customer. 

When comparing glass and acrylic, note that no single option, such as a glass tank, is ultimately better or superior to the other. It is no secret that both acrylic and glass aquariums have their pros and cons, so you will have to go with the option that best serves and meets your unique needs and preferences. 

Overview of Glass Aquariums

Did you know that glass is ideal for smaller fish tanks? This is because glass tanks are quite heavy and rigid, which makes them difficult to move. Also, note that glass aquariums are quite scratch resistant. This is why they are easier to clean than acrylic aquariums. Keep in mind that fully stacked or tempered glass aquariums are also a popular choice for freshwater aquariums among many aquascapers. 

Did you know that these fish tanks are usually constructed on glass plates which are then sealed carefully with silicone? Catering to the needs, requirements, and preferences of fish hobbyists, many manufacturers now use tempered glass. 

You will be happy to know that this makes your glass fish aquarium sturdier yet light. If you compare it with conventional glass, tempered glass aquariums tend to feel appreciably lighter. While it is difficult to scratch a glass tank, you should remember that you cannot buff them out. 

Overview of Acrylic Aquariums

Acrylic, on the other hand, is a lightweight and durable material ideal for bigger aquariums. It is worth noting that acrylic aquariums quickly became popular among aquascapers soon after these tanks were introduced. Did you know that an acrylic aquarium is lightweight? Also, note that you have many options that you can choose from, including tank shapes and sizes.  

When it comes to weight, acrylic is better when comparing glass vs. acrylic. An acrylic aquarium can be two times lighter compared to its glass variant.

45 Gallon All-In-One Red Sea MAX E 170

If you’re interested in getting into the saltwater aquarium hobby, an All-In-One aquarium makes it as easy as possible. These AIO aquariums include almost everything you need. You just need to add sand, live rock, saltwater, and fish.

The Red Sea MAX E 170 is only 45 gallons (37 gallons in the main display tank and 8 gallons in the rear sump) but this is large enough that it will provide a stable volume of water.

This aquarium includes a powerful LED light capable of growing corals and can be controlled by an app on your phone. It also includes a rear sump that you can add filter media such as biological, carbon, or chemical media to help control.

What is the Difference between Acrylic and Glass?

There are some important differences to keep in mind when comparing a glass vs. acrylic aquarium. There is no doubt that it is easier to move acrylic aquariums as they are lightweight. However, keep in mind that acrylic is also quite easily scratched, and that makes it more difficult to clean than glass tanks. 

If you get a piece of gravel or debris stuck in the sponge while scraping and cleaning the sides of your acrylic fish tank, it can be quite a hassle. The best thing is that you can easily buff out any scratches with a little planning. Note that in glass aquariums, a bonding process holds the edges together, making the seams stronger.  

If you are looking for more variety in shapes, you will be happy to know that it is easier and quicker to mold acrylic into several nontraditional shapes. And acrylic also scores some extra points as it is simpler to drill, especially for any bulk-head fittings. 

Are Glass Aquariums Better than Acrylic?

Glass aquariums are simpler to clean than acrylic tanks because they do not scratch easily. Glass tanks also require support just along the outer edges of the fish tank, which makes them better than acrylic fish tanks. In contrast, acrylic aquariums are usually lightweight with sleek and smooth corners that don’t chip easily. Did you know that acrylic also provides you with a less distorted view compared to glass?  

You should know that acrylic aquariums are lighter, more durable, and cost-effective than glass aquariums. As a result, many fishkeepers tend to go with an acrylic aquarium over its glass counterparts. However, the downside to acrylic tanks is that they require a stand with full support under the whole length of the bottom. 

Acrylic Aquariums Pros

If you are finding it hard to choose between glass and acrylic aquariums, here are some benefits of choosing acrylic aquariums over glass tanks.

Weighs Less

You may know that an acrylic aquarium is quite popular for large displays as it is so light. Did you know that on average, acrylic tanks weigh 50% to 60% less than glass aquariums with the same dimensions? This is why an acrylic aquarium is ideal for living spaces where weight is an important consideration, such as tabletop aquariums. 

Easier to Move

Because of its low weight, an acrylic aquarium is quite easy to move and maneuver from one place to the other, even when it is full of water.

Strength and Durability

It is no secret that glass tanks are usually more resistant to scratching. However, the benefit of acrylic is that it is resistant to impacts. This is why a blow that may shatter most glass aquariums or fish tanks will not have as much impact on your acrylic aquarium. This is why an acrylic aquarium will be a good choice for you if you have active children or any large pets that can shatter a glass fish tank.

Variety

Did you know that acrylic is a very flexible plastic sheet? This is why molding the material into various shapes is quite easy. You should go for acrylic if you prefer a curved aquarium or an oddly shaped fish tank.

Appearance

It is worth noting that relative to water, acrylic has a nearly identical index of refraction. And this means that light passing through acrylic tanks does not bend quite as much as it usually does when passing in and out of a glass tank. This gives you an accurate and better view of all the tank inhabitants.

Acrylic Aquariums Cons

Scratches 

Acrylic aquariums will get scratches, so keep this in mind before buying one. Acrylic is a very scratchable material. Note that impact won’t shatter it, but most things will scratch it. Did you know that even fish and many other inhabitants, such as snails, of your fish tank may scratch the acrylic using their claws and teeth? 

Cost 

 Another issue is that acrylic fish tanks are usually more expensive compared to their glass counterparts.

Glass Aquariums Pros

Here are some important benefits of a glass aquarium.

Cost

One of the most obvious differences between glass vs. acrylic tanks is the cost. It is worth noting that glass aquariums, on average, are two to five times more affordable than acrylic tanks of a standard design and volume. 

And this often makes glass aquariums ideal budget-wise for a majority of hobbyists.

Scratch Resistant

It is no secret that a glass aquarium is quite hard to scratch. So, unless someone scratches it on purpose, it is likely that your glass tank will maintain its looks and beauty for a considerably long time.

Better Insulation

If you place your hands against any glass aquarium, you can confirm that it’s releasing a considerable amount of heat, and that keeps the tank environment nice and comfy. This helps in maintaining the stability of the aquatic environment.

Hardness

There is no doubt that glass is quite a hard material. This is why it will only become flexible when you expose it to extremely high temperatures. As a result, a glass aquarium can easily support or handle more water weight and will not bend. 

Glass Aquariums Cons

Weight 

Did you know that glass is denser than acrylic? As a result, glass tanks are much heavier than acrylic tanks. Keep in mind that a glass aquarium will typically weigh four to ten times more than an acrylic aquarium of the same dimension and volume.

Visual Distortion

You may know that compared to water, glass has a considerably different index of refraction. And this means that the light bends four times when it travels through glass. So, each time that the light is reflected or bent, then the image will be distorted. This is why you may not see the true colors of your tank’s inhabitants. 

Cracks 

It is likely that sharp impacts will break or crack – or in some cases, shatter –your glass aquarium. 

How long do Acrylic Fish Tanks Last?

You will be happy to know that acrylic fish tanks are well-known for their longevity and are more durable than glass aquariums. With adequate care and attention, acrylic aquariums can even last a lifetime.  Also, acrylic aquariums don’t chip or scratch, which can be a nuisance with most glass fish tanks.

Comparing Acrylic and Glass Aquariums

Material Tint or Color

As acrylic does not have any color or tint, this enhances the viewer’s experience, offering you a true and accurate vision of all your fish. In contrast, glass fish tanks tend to vary and give you a little green or blue tinge since the material is usually colored.

Ease of Fish Tank Modification

Do you intend to add various accessories, such as a water filtration system, to your aquarium in the future? If yes, you will be better off starting by choosing an acrylic tank. 

On the other hand, it is not easy to modify glass tanks. Also, as glass is quite delicate, even drilling a few overflow holes could be challenging with glass aquariums.

Shape

The third factor you should consider when comparing glass vs. acrylic aquariums is the shape. Note that this is where an acrylic tank gives you more options. It is possible to bend and curve glass, but just to a small degree. 

In contrast, acrylic is considerably more flexible. This is why all types of bubbles, curves, spheres, and other shapes are available. If you need a bespoke or an unusual shape, then an acrylic tank is the best way forward.

Ease of Cleaning

There is no doubt that cleaning as well as polishing acrylic aquariums is much easier compared to cleaning a glass tank. The best thing is that with the appropriate chemicals, you will be able to clean your acrylic tank with ease. 

Note that the bonding that holds together the acrylic pieces is much stronger, which makes cleaning more manageable. In contrast, the bonding on most glass tanks is more delicate.

Is Acrylic Cheaper than Glass?

In most cases, glass aquariums are cheaper than their acrylic counterparts. While many people may believe that acrylic is more affordable, it is not. However, keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily mean that a glass tank will always be more economical than an acrylic fish tank. 

Did you know that there are several reasons why some fish tanks are more expensive compared to others? For example, some aquariums boast more features, whereas others are simply plain boxes. One of the main reasons glass is more affordable than acrylic is that glass is a very popular aquarium choice.

Why are Fish Tanks so Expensive?

Fish tanks can prove quite costly, particularly if you purchase a model that has a water filter, heater, and related accessories. Also, keep in mind that although they aren’t critical, things such as plants, rocks, tank stands, and lights can easily increase the coast of a fish tank. Keep in mind that the cost of setting up your aquarium from scratch may cost hundreds of dollars, even if you start with small models. 

Final Thoughts

In our opinion, the important debate about acrylic vs. glass aquariums might never end. This is simply because both materials have their unique strengths and weaknesses. Note that if you prefer a conventional rectangular aquarium, and do not want to worry about pesky scratches, then a glass aquarium is the best choice for you.  

On the other hand, if you would like to set up a large tank – about 500 gallons or even more – or prefer a fish tank that’s not rectangular, it is better to consider an acrylic tank. 

If you are a beginner and want a smaller tank, then we recommend a glass aquarium due to its affordability as well as scratch resistance. And for bigger and more advanced aquariums, it is best to go with acrylic as it is lightweight and considerably easier to repair than a glass aquarium.

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