Glass Aquarium vs Acrylic Aquarium

The following table sets out the relative merits of glass and acrylic aquariums.

Glass Acrylic
Cost Cheaper. More expensive.
Scratching Glass aquariums do not scratch easily, and to do so would require a hard and sharp object to be deliberately or carelessly dragged along the aquarium glass. Acrylic aquariums do scratch easily. It only takes minimal contact from the outside for scratches to happen. On the inside a water snail’s shell can cause a lot of damage, as can cleaning. It is very important not to use a razor blade to clean algae from the inside of an acrylic aquarium, only specialized acrylic cleaning tools.
Physical integrity The rigid nature of glass means that when a blow is struck against a glass aquarium it may break or shatter. This is an especially important factor to consider when placing an aquarium in a public area. However, the impact required to break a glass aquarium is also likely to be deliberate or extremely careless. The rigidity of glass has a flip side though – a glass aquarium does not need a flat surface to sit on, and can be supported by a frame or legs. The force required to break an acrylic aquarium is much greater than a glass aquarium. It is softer and more flexible, which means it is better at absorbing any blows struck against it. However, the flexibility of acrylic aquariums means they need more support. They must be placed on a flat surface to provide even support for the base, and the top edge may require structural support to prevent it bowing. This effect is a bit like when a cheap fizzy drink bottle is cut in half and filled with liquid.
Viewing Glass is very good at maintaining clarity. A new pane of glass in an old aquarium can be very hard to distinguish. When acrylic is brand new, it is likely to have a higher clarity rating than glass. However, it is equally likely to have its fair share of scratches after a few years. Having said that, one of the main advantages of acrylic over glass is the different way it bends light. Acrylic bends light in much the same way as water, so there is not so much distortion when viewing the interior of the aquarium. Coupled with the fact that acrylic does not need to be as thick as glass to provide the same strength, this will make a difference in large aquariums.
Weight Glass aquariums are heavier, but it is important to remember that the majority of the weight of an aquarium is the water, and the next heaviest objects will be ornaments and gravel. The lighter weight of acrylic aquariums makes them easier to manage when moving house, and when a larger aquarium is being transported, especially up a flight of stairs.
Shape Glass aquariums come made from panes of glass, and are usually built on a rectangular or square base, although polygonal is possible. Acrylic can be moulded to almost any shape, and consequently acrylic aquariums come in almost every shape. Rounded corners are a common feature.

One Response to “Glass Aquarium vs Acrylic Aquarium”

  1. 100 gallon fish tank Says:

    Thanks for the info on acrylic vs glass. I think acrylic should hold up way better than glass in the long run.

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