Should I buy Glass or Acrylic Aquarium?At some time or other we have all had to make a decision when it comes to purchasing a new tank, albeit our first investment or an upgrade, do we stick with the traditional glass tank or venture into the world of acrylic tanks.
Both tanks have their advantages / disadvantages so hopefully by means of this article some of your questions will be answered.
A couple of the main aspects in deciding which tank we buy has to be the shape we require and also how big does the tank need to be to successfully keep the livestock or plants we have planned to involve in the set up.
Even a small tank made from glass can be quite weighty, not a major problem with say a two foot one but when we start looking at 50 plus gallon tanks made from glass it would be impossible for one person to move about on their own, help from a friend would be a must. This is one advantage with acrylic the weight is dramatically reduced thus making replacement an easier task (acrylic is at least half the weight of glass).
Always remember though whether using glass or acrylic the cabinet must be strong enough to cope with either.
We all know the good old rectangular glass tanks but nowadays owners are looking for various shape designs to suit their décor, glass bow fronted tanks are widely available but what about that something different, this is where acrylic can go into its own. Any shape can be constructed (spherical, concave, convex – whatever is required) plus with the special sealing system used in the construction process these tanks are more or less guaranteed for life against leakages, whereas the silicon used in the glass sealing will break down over a period of years hence the normal of a 15 year guarantee.
Luckily for me I have never experienced this but imagine going into the tank room to find the glass shattered due to something being knocked into it or as happened in the past to one of my friends a hard ball thrown through it by one of his children, acrylic is 10-15 times more durable and it would need a lot of force to break through it. This could be a key factor where families are involved in the house.
Another advantage over glass is the fact that acrylic has much better refractory quality than glass so the viewing is markedly better, the fish can be observed much better, having said that it can also have the opposite effect if a tank is created using curved, one piece acrylic at the front. Viewing from the corners will give you a distorted picture of the inhabitants. Personally I have always used glass tanks which I keep as pristine as possible so the quality of my viewing is barely different to acrylic but this does involve a lot of maintenance, luckily that part of the hobby is one I enjoy doing anyway.
Fed up of running up an electric bill larger than usual because of your tank heaters, this can be reduced with an acrylic tank as its insulation properties are higher which means you can achieve the same running temperature with a smaller heater. So you have saved money that way but the actual cost of your tank new is going to be higher in the first place compared to glass so bear this in mind when purchasing. More style, less weight equals higher prices.
How many of you run a sump with your tank, and have you ever drilled it yourself for the pipe work. I have drilled glass tanks a few times and believe me it is a frightening experience the first time you do it. Due to the fragile nature of the glass, very slow and careful use of the drill is required whereas the opposite takes place with acrylic, the quicker you drill the better but cover over the tank where you are working with paper, cardboard to prevent it getting hot and eventually melting on the site of the hole.
Now we come to the main reason I will always stick with glass, tank maintenance.
In my cleaning tool kit I use algae magnets, a razor sharp blade on a handle, and a non abrasive scouring pad. Nothing wrong with that - not until you tried to use them on an acrylic tank. Its biggest downfall to me is the fact that it scratches so easily and this then gives the tank a dull finish where the damage has been done. There are products on the market for buffing these out, but this does involve emptying your setup and draining the water first. The only item I would recommend you use for cleaning purposes is a cloth and elbow grease.
Great care has to be taken when putting in gravel, rocks, or heavy ornaments as this can too scratch the acrylic if done with too much gusto. I even know of someone who has suffered damage to the tank from plecos due to their rasping teeth grinding at the tank.
I have tried to offer a balanced article here on the pros and cons of both tanks. Hopefully you will purchase the right tank for you, just remember, everybody has their own personal preferences so only you can choose for yourselves which you require.
Questions and answers
On March 23th 2011 we added the following questions here due to merging aqua-fish.net/answers with related articles. The questions below may be partially answered on this page, however listing them one-by-one makes them easy to read and visible as much as possible. You're welcome to submit own questions, use a form that can be found at the bottom of this page for this purpose.
- Which is better: acrylic or glass aquariums?Answer: Both acrylic and glass aquariums have their ups and downs. Acrylic is lighter and can handle larger volumes of liquid but it also has the tendency to scratch fairly easily and it can be harder to clean. Glass is less expensive and more resistant to scratching which makes it easier to clean because it can be scrubbed. On the other hand glass will crack easier than acrylic. The size of the aquarium should be based upon the volume of water the aquarium is required to hold. Any aquarium that is larger that 500 gallons or an unusual shape should be acrylic.
- Where can I buy glass for aquariums?Answer: A local glass shop will be able to provide you with glass cut to your size needs, just be sure to clean it well before using it in an aquarium.
- Which acrylic aquarium is better?Answer: There are many different brands of acrylic aquariums, each one offering something a little different. Have the shape, size and price range in mind before you start shopping. If the one you want is not available, you have the option of having one custom made just for you.
- Where do you buy acrylic glass?Answer: Acrylic is actually a plastic and is usually molded into solid piece aquariums. Companies such as Tenecor (www.tenecor.com) may sell sheets as well as their aquariums. Alternatively, a local glass shop should be able to provide you with acrylic cut to your size requirements.