Many aquariums are made of acrylic or glass though sometimes the differences between the two are lost on the general public. One notable difference is that acrylic tanks typically cost more. This makes some people opt for glass tanks while others, who correlate cost with value, choose acrylic since something that costs more must be worth more, right? But there are some other differences between the two tank materials that should be mentioned before you make up your mind on which one to purchase.
Glass tanks are notably more scratch resistant than acrylic. In fact, creating a scratch on glass typically takes a very hard material applied with a great deal of force, neither of which you should be worried about around your aquarium. Acrylic tanks are much more susceptible to scratches. In fact, they are so vulnerable to sharp edges that many acrylic tanks are scratched in transit from the manufacturer to retail locations. That should tell you how delicate they could be.
This is important information when it comes to choosing a cleaning solution. Look for specially marked cleaning supplies that explicitly state they are safe for acrylic aquarium surfaces. Though this might be viewed as a weakness, the nice part about acrylic is that it is easier to repair if it does happen to get scratched. Acrylic repair kits, or polishing kits, can be used to fill the scratched area of the tank. Make sure not to use them on the inside though, as the abrasive chemicals in the cleaning solution would not be good for the fish or plant life.
Take a Weight Off
Glass is much denser than acrylic, making it heavier. Acrylic tanks can be as much as 4 to 10 times lighter than their glass counterparts meaning they are a great choice if you haven’t quite decided where your aquarium will be placed, long term. While the lighter weight means a smaller or less durable stand could be employed, keep in mind that the water, not the tank, makes up weight in an aquarium. Acrylic tanks will be substantially lighter than glass tanks, but once you factor in water and decorations, the weight difference might not be that noticeable.
Broken or Cracked Tanks
Glass is obviously the weaker of the two choices when it comes to breaks and cracks. A good deal of force is necessary to crack glass, even more to break it; however, it is within the realm of possibility. Even a cracked tank can make an aquarium uninhabitable, while a break can make a giant mess. For these reasons make sure that nothing electronic is stored under your aquarium. Much more force is required to crack or break an acrylic tank, though, as discussed earlier, any such impact will definitely leave a scratch. Even relatively light impacts, that would not harm glass at all, will leave a scratch on acrylic.
Shape of Things to Come
The density of glass makes it much more rigid, almost to the point of being brittle. This molecular restriction makes non-rectangular tanks very difficult to produce and therefore much more expensive. Non-right angles, such as curved glass, will distort light passing through it and may make viewing angles of your fish, plants, and decorations much more difficult to come by. Acrylic on the other hand is molded like plastic and can therefore be manipulated into almost any shape. Acrylic tanks come in all shapes and sizes and at a usually lower price point than their glass counterparts.
The Choice is Yours
Use the aforementioned points to help guide you in your decision making, but remember,like so many things in life, there is no clear cut right or wrong answer. There will be times when a glass aquarium makes the most sense and times when acrylic is the obvious choice. One type to avoid would be plastic fish tanks. Plastic fish tanks are typically sold as all-in-one kits at toy stores. Their small nature makes filtering and cleaning difficult. This will make them more high maintenance, something that most people will neglect at the cost of their fishes health. Purchase your fish tank from a reputable pet store, as opposed to a toy store, and you will be in good hands.