There has been a long standing debate about which type of aquarium is better acrylic vs glass aquariums Now, to be fair, both have certain advantages and disadvantages. Both are great options to go with in their own right, but you do need to know what you are getting.
Let’s get right to it and talk about the pro’s and con’s of each one to help you decide which is best for you.
Acrylic vs Glass Aquariums – The Comparison
Now, let’s take a few minutes to look at both glass and acrylic aquariums, as well as what the advantages and disadvantages of each of them are.
Acrylic Pros & Cons
First let’s take a look at acrylic tanks, what is good about them, and what is bad about them too.
- One of the pros of acrylic tanks is that they are very lightweight. They are much easier to move around, even with water inside, if necessary. Also, they don’t put as much of a strain on the structure which they are standing on as glass aquariums.
- A great part about acrylic aquariums is that they are extremely hard to break. While acrylic tanks do scratch pretty easily, breaking them is near impossible. Sure, if you drop the whole thing from high up it will break, but it takes a big impact for breakage to occur.
- Acrylic tanks are good because they are easy to mold into shape. It is a lot easier to make a curved acrylic tank than a curved glass tank. Acrylic is very malleable.
- Acrylic tanks also do not distort what is on the other side nearly as much as glass tanks too. A curved glass tank will distort light so that things on the other side look warped. Acrylic tanks make for a great viewing experience.
- Acrylic tanks tend to be very strong. The material does need to be nearly as thick as glass does to support the same amount of water.
- Acrylic tanks can be drilled into in order to support overflow systems and other tubes. Glass cannot be drilled into for fear of breaking.
- Acrylic tanks tend to be very clear and easy to see through.
- Acrylic tanks are very easy to polish, buff, and repair when they are broken or don’t look brand new anymore.
- Acrylic tanks scratch really easily. While impact will not shatter them, pretty much anything will scratch them. Clothing, jewelry, and pretty much everything else will easily scratch acrylic, even with minimal contact. Even the fish and other inhabitants inside of the aquarium can easily scratch the acrylic with claws or teeth. You need to be really careful with cleaning and the placement of plants and substrate as scratching is definitely a big issue.
- The bottom of acrylic tanks tends to be quite weak. They require a full stand to support the whole area of the bottom of the tank. If the stand only supports the frame, the bottom pane of glass may come apart from the seams, thus causing leaks or total bottom-outs.
- Acrylic tanks, while being clear in the beginning, do get easily discolored. Chemical reactions caused by certain water parameters, as well as strong lighting systems, can cause the acrylic to become a yellowish color.
- Acrylic tanks tend to cost more than glass tanks. This is usually due to high shipping costs, as many aquariums get scratched and returned, thus increasing the shipping cost for the seller.
- Acrylic aquariums are much harder to clean effectively. You need special acrylic cleaning tools that are meant especially for acrylic. These can end up being quite expensive and hard to find. If you don’t have the proper cleaning tools you will end up scratching the tank.
- There are many acrylic aquariums that do not come in so called standard aquarium sizes, thus making it hard to find hoods, lids, lighting systems, and other accessories that will fit them properly.
Glass Pros & Cons
Now that we’ve taken a close look at acrylic aquariums, let’s move on and look at why glass aquariums are good, as well as why they can be bad too.
- Glass is much harder to scratch than acrylic is. It is insanely hard to scratch a glass aquarium. You literally need to do it intentionally with something hard like a rock or metal for the glass to scratch (you can also remove the scratches fairly easily).
- Glass tanks are fairly hard to break. While they will shatter with less force than required to break acrylic, it is not easily done. Once again, it has to be a really big impact for the glass to break, usually as the result of doing something that you should not be doing.
- Glass panes are very strong, much stronger than acrylic. This means that they can support a lot of water weight. Unlike for an acrylic tank, you won’t need a stand with a full top that supports the entirety of the bottom of the glass tank. An open top stand will do just fine.
- Glass tanks do not require as much structural support near the top to keep the glass from flexing. Acrylic flexes much easier.
- Glass is good because it is very clear and it maintains its clarity over long periods of time. Chemicals and light won’t alter the chemical composition and make it turn yellow. This is also true because glass is harder to scratch. Unlike with acrylic, you won’t be looking through a wall of scratches when trying to look at your fish.
- Glass aquariums usually cost less than acrylic ones. This is not because the glass versions are worse, but because they tend to require less specialized tools to make, plus they have lower shipper costs than acrylic tanks too.
- Glass aquariums are usually standard in size and built for accessories. Finding lids and other accessories is easily done for glass aquariums.
- Glass aquariums can take less impact damage than acrylic models. While breaking a glass aquarium is still pretty hard, it’s easier than with an acrylic tank.
- Glass aquariums can be as much as 10 times as heavy as acrylic tanks, making them much harder to move around.
- Glass tanks tend to be heat sinks, meaning that they dissipate heat much quicker than acrylic tanks. This means that glass tanks need to be heated more than acrylic ones.
- You won’t really find glass tanks that are anything but square or rectangular. Glass is brittle, fragile, and very hard to manipulate. It is not very malleable, so making anything but straight panes is quite the challenge.
- Glass has this nasty tendency to reflect light and bend it in weird ways. This will often distort whatever is on the other side of the glass, thus making your fish and other inhabitants look odd and misshaped.
- Glass cannot be drilled into to accommodate special overflow or filter systems as it will crack, split, and shatter when drilled into.
- It takes a thicker glass pane to support the same amount of water as acrylic, thus requiring more material.
- Glass tanks tend to be cheaper than acrylic ones, mostly due to shipping costs.
What’s A Good Acrylic Tank To Consider?
Let’s take a look at what we feel is one of the best acrylic tank options and why.
SeaClear 26 gal Flat Back Hexagon Acrylic Aquarium
this is a great option to go with if you are on the market for an acrylic tank. This particular option is a 26 gallon tank, which is moderate in size and ideal for smaller and medium communities. This option works great for both freshwater and saltwater, which is another bonus. This tank comes with a 24 inch reflector and a light fixture too. The fact that a light fixture is included is a pretty big bonus in our eyes.
Many people like the SeaClear Hexagon Aquarium because of the fact that it is a hexagon. Simply put, it has a really neat shape that many people love. This is a very lightweight, thin, and impact resistant aquarium. It is acrylic so it may scratch somewhat easily, but shattering it is near impossible. This is actually a fairly clear option to go with, one that will not distort whatever is on the other side.
- Very shatter resistant.
- Fairly clear.
- Cool shape.
- Light and reflector included.
- Good for saltwater and freshwater purposes.
- Scratches fairly easily.
- Needs a fully supportive stand.
What’s A Good Glass Aquarium To Consider?
Now let's take a look at our top pick for glass aquariums and why.
Tetra 20 Gallon Aquarium Kit
This particular aquarium is made of glass and is 20 gallons in size, making it a little smaller than the acrylic option we looked at above. However, 20 gallons is still more than enough for a small or small-medium community of inhabitants. It is a rectangular tank, so it is pretty simple and basic, but basic is not always bad. This is a very durable, scratch resistant, and highly functional tank.
The great part about this kit is that unlike the acrylic tank above, this tank comes with everything you need for a fully functional aquarium. It includes a color fusion universal changing LED lighting system that can change to pretty much any color in the rainbow. This kit also comes with a Tetra Whisper 20 filter, which is an all-inclusive 3 stage filter that will clean the water without issue. You also get a nice hood, a heater for the water, two packs of Wonderland plants, and one blooming white anemone.
- Includes a changing light system.
- Comes with a hood.
- Includes a heater and filter.
- Ideal for a smaller community.
- Comes with plants and an anemone.
- Highly durable and scratch resistant.
- Does not require a full top stand.
- Thick and heavy.
- Will shatter with moderate impact.
Conclusion: What Is Better, a Glass OR Acrylic Aquarium?
As you can probably tell by now, whether you get glass or acrylic, they both have certain pros and cons. If you are getting a smaller tank, a glass one is ideal as they stay clear, they can support weight from the bottom, and they look really nice. However, if you want a really big tank, you should probably get an acrylic one as it will be lighter.
Also, if you are looking for an aquarium that is anything but rectangular, you will have to look into an acrylic model. Your best bet is to look at all of our pros and cons about glass and acrylic aquariums and then make your judgment based on what seems more suitable for you.