If you’re thinking about buying some fish, you’ll first need a choose a home for them. You can choose between an acrylic or glass aquarium, but what’s the difference? An acrylic vs glass aquarium…which is better?
In the end, it all comes down to preference. Keep reading to find out which one is better for you.
What Is The Difference Between Glass & Acrylic Aquariums?
Acrylic and glass aquariums are both clear and easy to see through. But, you might not know the differences between these two aquariums or which one would be right for you.
What Are They Made Of?
We make glass by fusing sand, limestone, or soda ash at high temperatures. Acrylic is a type of plastic made from an acrylonitrile monomer.
Because acrylic tanks are plastic, they’re lighter and easier to mold. So, you can find acrylic aquariums in a variety of shapes and sizes.
What Are Glass Aquariums Good For?
Glass aquariums are a popular choice, especially for larger tanks, and for good reason.
They Retain Clarity
People love glass aquariums because they stay clear throughout their life. They won’t turn yellow or opaque like acrylic aquariums.
They are also resistant to scratching which is nice if you have kids or pets that like to be around the aquarium.
It’s also nice because you don’t have to be as careful about scratching when cleaning your aquarium. Cleaning consists of scrubbing the walls, moving around decorations, and moving the gravel. This can be hard on your aquarium. But, because glass is scratch-resistant, you don’t have to worry about it too much.
Resistant To Cracking
Glass aquariums are stable and resistant to cracking. Glass is a sturdy material that can support a lot of weight which is why it’s an ideal aquarium material. It can hold a lot of weight while remaining stable. So, it’s easy to choose an aquarium stand that will support your glass aquarium, regardless of its weight.
But, non-tempered glass is also easy to break if it’s stuck. You should try to buy a tempered glass aquarium that is stronger and less resistant to breaking. The downside is that tempered glass aquariums are more expensive than non-tempered ones.
It’s easier to make glass aquariums. So, they also tend to be more affordable than acrylic aquariums.
Downsides Of Glass Aquariums
Glass aquariums have a lot of good properties, but they have quite a few downsides as well.
They Weigh More
One of the downsides to glass aquariums is that they tend to be much heavier. Water itself is already very heavy, so it’s not ideal to add extra weight. If you choose a glass aquarium, be sure to choose an aquarium stand that can hold all the extra weight.
It can also be difficult to move a glass aquarium once you have it set up. The glass alone can make them weigh 4-10 times as much as acrylic aquariums. This makes it near impossible to move the tank without draining it. So, if you choose a glass aquarium, we’d recommend being 100% sure of your location before setting it up.
They’re Easier To Break
Glass is also easier to break. In an ideal world, nothing would come near our aquariums that would cause them to break. But, accidents happen. If something hits the side of your aquarium, it’s likely to crack or shatter, compromising the lives of your fish.
Shapes Are Limited
Also, glass is not malleable like acrylic aquariums. So, you’re not likely to find glass aquariums in unique shapes. Instead, you’ll probably have to stick to more geometric patterns.
One of the biggest downsides to glass aquariums is that they cause visual distortion. Glass has a different refractive index than water, so it causes the rays of light to bend when they enter the water. This may make things within the tank appear different in size, shape, or distance.
Distortion becomes worse if you choose a non-traditionally-shaped aquarium. Curved glass cause a greater degree of distortion. Even worse, this distortion doesn’t just affect you, it affects your fish. It will mess up their perception and can cause a great deal of stress.
What Are Acrylic Aquariums Good For?
Acrylic aquariums are moldable, so they’re good if you prefer unique aquariums. They come in all different shapes and sizes. So, you can choose the best aquarium to match your aesthetic.
Acrylic aquariums are also prized for being impact resistant. They are much less likely to break if there is an accident, like if something hard hits your aquarium. Do you keep your aquarium in an area where there is a lot of movement? Then an acrylic aquarium might be the better option.
Downsides Of Acrylic Aquariums
Although there are many perks to having an acrylic aquarium, there are also some downsides.
Breakdown & Yellowing
The biggest downside of acrylic aquariums is that they don’t stay clear over time. As the years go by, day-to-day light will have an effect on the quality of the plastic. It will begin to break down and become yellow.
In fact, this breakdown causes more problems than just yellowing. Too much UV exposure may cause an older tank to become porous and brittle. If it experiences too much damage, it may even break.
Easy To Scratch
Similarly, acrylic is very easy to scratch, so you have to be careful when cleaning your aquarium.
Scratching is also a problem if you keep the aquarium in an area where it’s touched a lot. If you have kids or pets, chances are that they will touch the tank.
This is also a problem if you’re planning to set up an aquarium in an office space or somewhere similar. If people are always touching the tank, it will lead to lots of scratching which makes it hard to see your fish.
Flexing & Splitting
Acrylic is difficult to break, but it is susceptible to flexing and splitting at the seams. It can be difficult to use acrylic for larger-sized tanks. The material isn’t always able to handle the large amount of weight and pressure that comes with a lot of water.
Unfortunately, visual distortion is a problem in acrylic aquariums as well. But, the distortion doesn’t seem to be as defined. Still, unless you buy high-quality acrylic, you’re likely to experience some amount of distortion. You should still avoid curved aquariums.
Because acrylic is malleable, it can come in different shapes and sizes. Because of this, it tends to be more expensive than glass aquariums.
A Quick Comparison
What are the pros and cons of glass aquariums?
- Stays clear over time
- Scratch resistant
- Crack resistant
- More affordable
- Easier to break
- Not malleable — less variety of shapes
- Visual distortion
What are the pros and cons of acrylic aquariums?
- Moldable — comes in a variety of shapes and sizes
- Less breakable
- A lesser degree of visual distortion
- Yellows & breaks down over time
- Scratches easily
- Flexing & splitting
- More expensive
Which material is best really depends on your preferences.
If you want something more unique, that comes in all shapes and sizes, you’ll want to go with acrylic. Acrylic is also better if you want something more lightweight or less breakable.
But, if you’re on a budget, you might want to go with glass instead. Glass is a good option if you want something that is scratch-resistant and won’t break down over time.