Fish Tanks

Are Acrylic Aquariums Better Than Glass?

Here are 17 real facts about acrylic and glass aquariums. We have added a detailed comparison chart for Glass Vs. Acrylic Aquariums.

Are Acrylic Aquariums Better Than Glass? Yes, acrylic aquariums are popular in the hobby for decades and are far better than glass as they are lighter, modify-able, shatter-resistant, convenient, and durable for aqua-spacers. It serves as an all-in-one design, which is the best choice for custom tanks and is preferable over glass ones. Glass aquariums are heavy and less durable.

Are Acrylic Aquariums Better Than Glass?

Every aquarium material has some benefits and drawbacks, and before purchasing, you have to look for the best material. Usually, people use glass and acrylic aquariums as they are the most common and popular nowadays.

Acrylic and glass both look alike, and you can not find any visual difference between the two, but they are different in terms of functionality. Both are the better choice when you look for aesthetics, but you will find differences in their properties.

It is necessary to choose a material that meets all your requirement and needs with long-term benefits. Acrylic is better for most households and places as it serves to be a more reliable and optimal choice for the people who want to make their aquarium as per their choice.

Comparison Chart for Glass Vs. Acrylic Aquariums

Features Acrylic Aquarium Glass Aquarium
lightness More light heavy
porosity porous Non-porous
strength Less strong More strong
discoloration Change color easily Do not change color
Visibility or clarity More clear Less clear
Impact-resistant More resistant Less resistant
cost expensive cheap
shaping More options for shapes Limited shape
insulation Good insulator Bad insulator
durability More durable Less durable
refraction Less refraction More refraction
Life Longer life Shorter life
Scratch resistance Not resistant More resistant

What is an acrylic aquarium?

Acrylic or polymethyl methacrylate looks exactly like glass but is not glass. Instead, it is a transparent thermoplastic homopolymer or plastic. Its manufacturing process makes it more reliable and acceptable as it provides you a lot of options for your aquarium in terms of size and shape.

This material has a unique property of remodeling, and you can customize it in multiple ways. It usually has two manufacturing processes, which are extrusion and cell casting.

In this process of extrusion, there is a continuous extruding of acrylic to make its sheets. The cell cast process involves the pouring of un-reacted liquid acrylic between two panes of glass. After curing and removal of glass panes, the acrylic is ready to use for the aquarium. 

What is a glass aquarium?

The glass aquarium is more of a traditional and pleasing one that can last long if you provide proper care.

Glass or silicon dioxide is heavy material due to its manufacturing from silica and is usually not reliable. It is a very famous and popular aquarium material because of its high quality, water holding capacity, cost-effectiveness, and resistance to scratches.

Pros and Cons of Acrylic and Glass Aquariums

Long-lasting

Acrylic can last for a longer time when you provide it sufficient care and maintenance. It usually lasts longer than glass because it is resistant to cracks or damages, and you should not worry about its accidental breakage. Also, proper cleaning and protection from excessive light can make your tank last for decades.

Glass can also last for several years or decades if you place it at the safest place where no damage or accident can hit it. Typically its lifespan is 7 to 10 years, but there are certain instances where aqua-spacers keep it for 40 years.

Rigidity

Acrylic has the property of remodeling and flexing, and when you do not support it, especially at the top, it can bend or split along the seam lines. Due to this reason, mostly acrylic tanks come with certain bracing to avoid deforming or falling apart.

Glass is very rigid, and it never bends, split or bulge, and you do not need to provide it any support. They are supportive and handle themselves pretty well, these are perfect for Killifish.

Porosity

Porosity is the ability of any material to allow substances or particles to pass through them, and the acrylic is porous. It absorbs chemicals from water and allow them to pass on the outer side, which you can feel but is not a big concern. 

Glass is not porous and never allows any chemical or substances to pass through them, and you observe no change in clarity or appearance at all.

Bonding

The aquarium consists of four to five separate sheets that you glue or join together to form the tank. Acrylic aquariums are bound either chemically or with transparent glue, but there is no silicon or other glue at the seams or corners. This feature makes it clear in terms of visibility because of its seamless appearance. 

On the other hand, glass sheets need silicone gluing or black injection molded frames to support the weight. Also, silicon is unattractive and unpleasant when it forms the bond. This kind of bonding reduces visibility along with corners or seams and interrupt the view.

Leakage

Acrylic aquariums do not leak because of their molecular-bound or chemically-weld sealing and serve to be leakage-proof. You can place them in any place or area without the fear of leaks and spoilage.

The glass aquarium is more prone to leakage because of its silicon sealing. This silicon seal deteriorates with time and needs constant repair to prevent leaks. You have to provide continuous care and supervision to restrict leaks. You should know the causes of a leaking aquarium.

Installation of equipment

You can drill holes anywhere in the acrylic aquarium without damaging the whole sheet and can make way for the wires and pipes for the filter and pump. It is a plastic that never damages by drilling holes anywhere, and you can install all your equipment.

Glass can not resist holes and drilling unless it is tempered glass. If you try to drill holes in it, the whole tank can break in a jerk. This property makes it too hard for you to fit tubes and wires and set up the equipment.

Maintenance and cleaning

Acrylics give you a better option for cleaning and maintenance on both the outside and inside the tank. It is easy to remove all the stains from the tank using the right chemicals. Also, it does not require careful handling and cleaning because of strong bonding. 

The glass aquarium needs careful cleaning to protect it from damage, and you need to take out all the fish from the tank for proper cleaning. Due to the sealed corners, you have to clean it with more care using an appropriate cleaner. Also, it needs a brush to scrub off the stains, but it can leave scratches. These scratches offer a place for algae and bio-films to grow and collect. 

Image distortion or refraction

Acrylic is the best and superior material because it has the same refractive index as water. You can see the objects in their original shape and size through the acrylic. The light bends once or twice and does not affect the size and color image. The only difference you observe is the slight misplacement of fish.

Glass has a refractive index higher than water, so when the light passes through it and refract, the light bending causes visual distortion. You observe distortion in the image of objects when you look from outside of the tank, especially where curvatures are present. Not only size or shape but also the color slightly looks change from outside.

Weight

Acrylic is the best choice in terms of weight as they are lightweight, and you can place them on any table or desk. When you want to establish a large aquarium, it is better to go for this one. Even after filling water, it will not weigh much, and you can move it around.

Glass is denser and heavier and weighs 4 to 10 times more than acrylic. Do not choose it for the large tank as it will weigh too much; It is preferable for smaller tanks; it leaves a stain on the surfaces or structures on which they are standing.

Fragility

Acrylic aquarium absorbs shock and impact brilliantly and is supremely impact-resistant. You can place them in a high traffic area as accidental hits or knocks do not break the tank. You can easily move a fish tank without emptying it.

Glass aquarium can easily break with the hit or knock of a solid object, and you can not make them fit again. Even if you place them in the safest place, any shock or jerk can make it shatter into pieces.

Clarity

Both acrylic and glass aquariums have good clarity and look extremely clean, but acrylic is more clearer in the beginning. With time it becomes foggy, cloudy and changes its color slightly.

Glass remains clear transparent lifelong, but sometimes it is slightly bluish or greenish in appearance. This shading depends upon quality as a high-quality one is crystal clear and much cleaner. You can add aquarium stem plants for a better look.

Shaping

Acrylic provides more options in terms of shapes and designs as it is synthetic plastic, and you can shape it into your style. It is highly receptive to thermoforming, allowing you to design it in any way. It is easy to place a fish tank at home.

Glass is hard and brittle and can not get into different shapes, so you do not have options to shape it. If you make a curved aquarium, it will bend light and make the fish inside appear larger or smaller than the actual size. 

Insulation

Acrylic is a better insulator, and you can easily maintain a consistent temperature inside the tank. You can place it in a cold or tropical area as it can stabilize the tank’s temperature.

Glass sinks and dissipate heat much quicker and is unable to maintain temperature. It is not preferable for cold places where you need to maintain a warm temperature inside the tank.

UV radiation

Acrylic can not stand UV radiation and turns yellow frequently when you place them under sunlight for a longer time. It occurs due to the photochemical reaction, and it never reverses. Excessive UV light can make it brittle and lose its shape, which is the main drawback of acrylic.

Glass is UV resistant and has no impact of sunlight on it. It never turns yellow or brittle if you place them under scorching light for a long time.

Cost

Acrylic manufacturing is more costly, and it also involves shipping costs, which makes it 2 to 5 times more expensive than glass aquariums. Its manufacturing by cell cast process is pricey due to requiring more time and labor.

Glass is less expensive and cheap than acrylic, and you can purchase it easily from anywhere. They are mass-produced and easy to access and are more common.

Scratches

Acrylic is more prone to scratches because it is a type of plastic, and it can get scratches even with most smaller and less edgy substances. Even the gravel, substrate, and inhabitants of the tank can scratch. It is also easy to fix the scratches, as all you need is a polishing kit and remove scratches from the outside.

Glass aquariums are a thousand times more resistant to scratches than acrylic as only a solid material, and considerable pressure can scratch. However, cleaning and rubbing with a stiff brush can add scratch to it.

Moreover, it is hard to remove the scratch, and you have to change the entire panel. More scratch resistance is the most favorable feature of glass in terms of its choice for aquariums.

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