The first step in your fishkeeping journey is to choose the right aquarium. Most are made from glass or acrylic, but a lot of people aren’t sure about the main differences between the two. This might lead to the misconception that acrylic is always better because it’s more expensive.
But that isn’t the case at all! In fact, glass and acrylic aquarium each have their own advantages and disadvantages. It is important that you understand these differences and make the right choice for what you need.
When it comes down to it, a glass aquarium offers more long-term benefits whereas an acrylic aquarium has more short-term benefits. Without further ado, let’s compare glass vs acrylic as a tank material.
The Differences Between Glass and Acrylic Fish Tanks
When trying to choose between a glass or acrylic aquarium for your fish, you should first know the main differences between the two materials.
Here’s a table to summarize them:
|Weight||Heavy & compact||Lighter|
|Impact Resistance||Chips and breaks easily||More resistant|
|Shape||Square and rectangle||More flexible|
|Clarity||Durable clarity||Yellows with age|
|Workability||Difficult to modify||Easy to modify|
|Scratching||Hard to scratch||Very scratchable|
Glass is heavier than acrylic because it is denser. It’s not exactly rocket science and most people would know this. Except how much heavier is glass?
A glass tank can weight from 4 to 10 times as an acrylic tank, even if they have the same volume.
As a result, the lighter acrylic tank is easier to ship and transport. You can also place it on tables or countertops with no problem.
It’s also easier to lift and you can move the tank around at home with less difficulty, even if there’s water inside.
If you are planning to buy large or customized tanks, it can be essential to consider the overall weight. Especially if the tank is going to be on the second floor or above. Don’t overlook the weight that your floor can support!
It’s good to be careful in the first place and not let any heavy objects from bumping your tank. But just in case, you might want to know that acrylic is better at resisting impact.
Glass can break and chip more easily when you crash into it.
Again, at the end of the day, try to prevent any form of bumps and crashes. An accident with a filled and live-in aquarium is never a pleasant situation to have!
Make sure to place your aquarium someplace safe and away from the reach of little kids or your pets.
Because glass is more brittle and rigid, it is harder to shape and bend. This is why you will find most glass aquariums only in the standard square and rectangular shape.
Sure, you can curve glass, but it will result in “bent light” when you look through the glass. Your fish will look smaller or larger than it really is.
This shouldn’t be a huge drawback for most people, unless you are looking for tanks with a specific shape that will fit your imagination.
In that case, using acrylic may be the better choice for you. You can form into anything you like, and curved acrylic will not bend light. This means your fish and other creatures, won’t look distorted.
Glass can let light in because that’s what it does. Even after years, it will retain its clarity and there’s no need to worry about your glass tank becoming opaque and yellow with age.
However, acrylic cannot stay clear for as long. It will yellow over time, especially if exposed to UV light and direct sunlight.
This is because the chemical reaction in the acrylic material causes it to discolor and become cloudy. Yes, there are now UV-resistant acrylic tanks, but they are still not as good as their glass counterparts.
In addition to how easily it scratches (which we will discuss below), your aquarium may be unclear and filled with marks, making it harder to see the content clearly.
When we mean workability, we simply mean how easy it will be to make modifications to your aquarium. If you like DIYs and want to alter them, choose acrylic over the glass.
It is easier to drill holes and other things. For instance, if you want to fit in new outlets or overflows.
While it’s possible to drill and cut glass, it is much more difficult and requires specialized tools to do. Plus, there is always the possibility of shattering the entire tank instead and making a mess.
Another important factor when choosing an aquarium is how scratch-resistant it is. Unfortunately, acrylic is extremely scratchable. It scratches so easily that sometimes, the packing materials may even scratch the tank!
Even brushing against it with your accessories, jewelry, or clothing can damage the acrylic surface. So, if you have young kids running around the house, a cat, or a dog, it’s probably best to avoid acrylic.
Furthermore, the inhabitants inside the tank, including anything with sharp claws and shells, can scratch it.
Clean your tank using only soft algae scrubbers and make sure not to accidentally brush gravel or sand against the surface. While there are many polishing kits you can use to remove the scratches, this will only add to your task in maintaining your aquarium.
The good news is that glass is much harder to scratch. You will need to use a very rough material and press hard to leave a mark. This is why windows use glass, so maybe your aquarium will thank you if it’s made of glass.
As a material, glass is actually more expensive than acrylic, but why are acrylic tanks so much more expensive?
It’s simply because the demand for glass aquariums is higher. This makes glass cheaper to ship and manufacture, thus reducing the cost of its production. It also doesn’t require as many special tools to handle.
On the other hand, the acrylic tank is easily scratched, which means shipping is more cost-intensive and difficult.
Yet if you are looking for an extra-large aquarium of at least 150 gallons in size, getting an acrylic one may end up cheaper.
Should You Get A Glass or Acrylic Aquarium? (Conclusion)
As we have described, each material type has its own benefits and drawbacks. Your choice can affect how your aquarium will fare with time.
If you need a uniquely-shaped tank to fit your interior design, you’ll get more from an acrylic tank.
But if you just need a simple tank that can stay clear even over the years, maybe go with glass. Note that it’s still much heavier too!
So, do you think you prefer a glass or acrylic aquarium?