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Acrylic vs. Glass Aquariums: Which is Best? (2023 Comparison)

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By Lindsey Stanton

So, you want to have a stunning fish tank. Now, the question arises naturally. What kind should you choose? There is a never-ending battle between fish keepers.

aquarium plant divider

Acrylic vs. Glass Aquariums – Which is Best?

At first glance, both tank types might look the same. There doesn’t seem to be too much of a difference, except for the material, of course. I used to think this way too, until I bought my first acrylic tank.

When you own both acrylic and glass aquariums, you start to spot the differences. Like anything else, both glass and acrylic come with pros and cons. And while the former might keep its beautiful appearance over time, the latter is often a better choice.

To understand why let’s have a look at the pros and cons of both glass and acrylic aquariums.

Glass Aquarium Advantages

aquarium fish tank
Image credit: LizWinfreyV, Wikimedia CC 4.0

Aquarium manufacturers have used glass for years, and there is a good reason for it. This material comes with a host of benefits.

Let’s have a look at the most important:

  • Scratch resistant
  • Can support more water weight
  • Doesn’t turn yellow/ foggy
  • Easy to find accessories
  • Cheaper
  • Poor impact resistance
  • Much heavier than acrylic tanks
  • Due to relatively fast heat dispersion, it needs to be heated more than acrylic
  • Limited shape choice
  • Glass imperfections may make your fish look awkward or misshaped

A closer look at the pros

  • Scratch resistance: No doubt, glass aquariums are insanely hard to scratch. Unless you’re scratching it on purpose, chances are your tank will maintain its beauty for a really long time.
  • Hardness: Glass is a hard material that only becomes flexible when exposed to very high temperatures. Thanks to this feature, glass aquariums can support more water weight without bending, and they can be placed on an open top stand without worrying that the bottom will collapse.
  • Stays clear over time: Since acrylic is a type of plastic, the material tends to turn yellow and lose its clarity over time. However, this isn’t an issue for glass. Indeed, light and tank maintenance chemicals won’t alter the composition of glass. Thus, these aquariums will stay clear and beautiful for a really long time.
  • Accessories: Glass aquariums have been on the market for quite some time, so finding accessories for them is easy. That’s a big plus, especially if you want to cover the tank with a lid.
  • Better priced: Another significant advantage is the lower price, determined by the manufacturing simplicity and lower shipping costs. No doubt, this feature makes them the go-to choice for goldfish keepers on a budget.

Acrylic Aquarium Advantages

acrylic aquarium
Image By: BLUR LIFE 1975, Shutterstock

While glass aquariums come with a few advantages, the acrylic ones don’t disappoint either. Despite being a rather new entry on the market, they have already gained a fair share of fans.

  • Stronger than glass
  • Lightweight
  • More variety
  • No image distortion
  • It scratches easily
  • It may turn yellow over time (common with older acrylic aquariums)
  • Needs full stand support for the bottom area
  • Less flexible accessory placement

A closer look at the Pros

  • Strength: Even though it may seem weird, the truth is that acrylic is stronger than glass. It takes a thinner sheet of acrylic to hold the same quantity of water as a thicker glass tank, which subsequently means lower weight.
  • Easy to move: Due to their low weight, acrylic aquariums are also very easy to move from one place to another, even when they are full of water.
  • Resistance: Even if glass aquariums are resistant too, they are not as resilient as acrylic. This material won’t shatter if you accidentally drop it as long as it’s not a massive impact. Although it scratches easily, acrylic typically lasts longer than glass.
  • Variety: Since acrylic is a flexible plastic sheet, molding it into shape is very easy. In other words, if you want a curved or oddly shaped tank, go for acrylic.
  • Image clarity: Unlike glass, acrylic doesn’t distort the image on the other side of the panel. You’ll be able to admire your goldfish in all their glory, alongside the water-scape you plan to create. Glass often has more of a green tint (source).
  • Alterability: Another significant advantage is that you can drill into an acrylic tank to attach tubes, overflow systems, or other accessories. You can’t do that with glass without the risk of shattering it.
  • Heat maintenance: Unlike glass, acrylic doesn’t dissipate heat quickly, so you won’t have to turn on the tank heater quite as often. While most aquarium heaters are energy efficient, using it less will still save some pennies on your electricity bill.

And the Winner Is…

Which is the best aquarium is down to you. If you were to ask me, it’s acrylic all the way.

Acrylic aquariums may cost more, but they are stronger and more durable than glass. They’re also about five times lighter, thus more comfortable to move, more flexible, easy to drill, and even hold the temperature better, helping you save on the aquarium heater’s running costs.

These are just a few reasons to choose acrylic over the glass. If you’re wondering what acrylic aquarium to get, check out…

The SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Line

SeaClear acrylic aquarium

I love that SeaClear line of aquariums offers a wide variety of acrylic tanks. Whether you’d like a traditional rectangular aquarium or a unique hexagon or bowfront unit, you can surely find a model that fits the bill.

The company also creates tanks with solid blue or black back. These are a great option if you want to have a neat & tidy display that hides all unsightly filters, cords, or wires.

You’ll also have plenty of options in terms of sizes. From small 15-gallon tanks perfect for the starters to full-size 50-gallon aquariums, SeaClear spoils you with choices.

See all sizes & read my full review here: Why the SeaClear Aquarium Beats Glass Tanks

Wrapping It All Up

While both glass and acrylic aquariums have their pros and cons, acrylic has more advantages. From traditional to unconventional shapes, resistance, and durability, it all weighs in favor of these tanks. What do you think?

Would you go for an acrylic aquarium or stick to the traditional glass? Which type do you like more and why? Share your thoughts in a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.

And if you know someone who’s keeping or wants to keep fish, share this article with them too!

Featured image credit: Amazon

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