Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Acrylic vs. Glass Aquariums: Which is Better? Vet-Verified Pros & Cons

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

Vet approved

Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

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. When you own both acrylic and glass aquariums, you may start to spot the differences. Of course, preference is purely subjective, but other factors might be worth considering as well.

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 has some perks you might want to consider.

Glass Aquarium At a Glance

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 misshapen
  • Scratch resistant, but not scratch proof!

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.
  • Durability: 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 At a Glance

acrylic aquarium
Image Credit: 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. However keep in mind that aquariums are very heavy when full of water, regardless of what material they’re composed of.
  • Shatter-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.
  • 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.

Which One Is Better?

Which is the best aquarium is down to you. 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.

However, glass aquariums are not without their merit and enthusiasts who are in the hobby for the “long haul” are definitely going to favor glass aquariums due to their ability to remain clear for a longer period of time and their incredible scratch resistance traits. Though acrylic can be molded into various shapes, some people seem to appreciate the rectangular or square shape of glass aquariums, as they’re easy to sort in a massive space where many fish tanks will be placed on shelves in a systematic fashion (such as in rows).

Wrapping It All Up

Since both glass and acrylic aquariums have their pros and cons, there’s no clear winner when it comes to deciding which one is “better”. Ultimately, the decision you make may factor in other things, such as your budget, the desired aquarium shape, and how long you expect to keep the aquarium once it’s set up. Long-term plans definitely seem to favor glass aquariums, however, acrylic aquariums have their perks as well and might be more favorable in certain situations.

Featured image credit: Amazon

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database

Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!