Glass vs. Acrylic Aquariums - Which is the Best Choice for You?

Posted by sharon seals on

It Never Ends With Just One Aquarium

The aquarium hobby has a distinctive feature that is often overlooked or, possibly, never spoken of? No, no, no, it has nothing to do with the environment or politics, we're talking about the addictive aspect. Anyone who has ever gotten a fish tank properly working knows that the very next thing you are going to want to do is to go and get another, and there are so many options!

It never fails, that first Betta just looks so good in his newly built home that you created that you'll just want another, and the fact that the fish store has multiple tanks and tells you that not all species can live together means that you obviously need at least a couple more tanks, right? How else are you supposed to learn about fish care when you don't have at least one of each type?

Ok, this may be a little exaggerated, but we all know it's got a hint of truth to it. Aquariums are addicting, and Craigslist and Facebook are packed full of people giving them away for too cheap to pass up! 

Choosing Your Newest Fish Tank

So, now what? Well, first you'll have to decide how to explain your ridiculous expenditures on fish to your significant other... it's therapeutic, right?... and then you are going to have to get the pleasure of looking at more fish tanks.

It's a sacrifice for sure, but we know you can handle it.

Now, some people know exactly what the want and why, but those new to the hobby often wonder what the big fuss is about the way an aquarium is made and why there are such price differences. Why wouldn't you just go with that aquarium someone is giving away on Craigslist?

There are multiple factors to consider, but today we'll be going over the differences (good and bad) between acrylic and glass. There are very good reasons that a lot of individuals choose to go with one or the other, and the deciding reason usually isn't the price, believe it or not!

(Glass Rimless Aquarium Complete Setup for Freshwater or Saltwater (Sump Filtration System Included) FREE SHIPPING) 


Glass is one of the original materials used in the aquarium hobby, but it isn't the first. Long ago when Asian cultures first kept fish they would put them in large ceramic pots, similar to the vases you often see today. Often Koi were used, along with floating water plants. To see the fish specimens more clearly though, it was with the invention and larger-scale production of glass that we graduated to clear tanks. Glass is perfect because it is sturdy and can be built to specific sizes, especially when reinforced. Back in those days, it was revolutionary in studying and keeping fish, however, the glass back then wasn't the type that we think of today. Now we have a perfectly smooth glass. It can even be made better by manufacturing it to be low-iron. This low-iron glass is almost perfectly uniform, unlike its green-tinted counterpart of old. Although slightly pricier, many consider it well worth the money.

The only downfalls of glass are that it is more easily breakable and considerably heavier, causing shipping and moving to be especially stressful times. Glass can also be custom made to fit most spaces, however, the edges are only ever going to be straight. In contrast, we come to our next subject, the acrylic aquarium.

(Cylinder Fish Tank Complete Setup (Acrylic) FREE SHIPPING)


Acrylic is a newer addition to manufacturing that has helped to revolutionize the aquarium hobby. Unlike glass, acrylic is molded and can be made into just about any shape you can think of. Rounded tanks create for a wider viewing and unique type of display that glass could never give, there are drawbacks though.

Acrylic, though more flexible, does require better stabilization and therefore cannot create the large rimless fish tanks that have become so popular. Although the acrylic material is more lightweight and better on shipping costs, which is good due to the upfront expense, the material is more prone to scratching. Scratches can be reduced or buffed out depending on the severity, but not always. If you set up your tank in an environment that gets a lot of traffic, like a pediatric office, you may want to reconsider a glass alternative. 

Distortion as a Deciding Factor

Another factor to consider is distortion. Here, both materials have their goods and bads. Glass, because light passes through its layers, creates a slightly offset image of the actual inhabitants that may not be completely true to the fish colors and shapes. Acrylic is the opposite. Acrylic is closer to water in terms of light refraction and will give you a clear and crisp image of the inhabitants inside. If you are setting up a tank specifically for photography, then an acrylic tank may be the way to go.

Temperature Regulation

The last major factor that we have not addressed is insulation. Depending on what you have, or are going to have in your aquarium, you need to consider the heating. Some fish species (such as coral) are very sensitive to this aspect, as is your energy bill, and a well-insulated tank will help to reduce both issues. Acrylic is the way to go if this is important to your setup. Often the insulation ability is not considered, but for something like an extremely sensitive reef tank, it might be worth a thought.

Now that you have an idea of the pros and cons of both materials, picking out your next tank should be easy! Just remember to plan ahead first before you go crazy stocking fish. (We know that's a tough one.) You'll be kicking yourself later though when your pictures turn out blurry due to the kids constantly trying to see the cool fish inside!

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