When getting in the hobby the question often comes up, “Should I get a glass or acrylic tank?”
Ultimately, glass tanks are less expensive which is usually a main concern. The glass aquarium is usually made of plate-glass with a thickness that varies with the capacity of the aquarium. This style of tank usually comes with a black plastic band around the top and base of the aquarium as well as a center support to prevent bowing. There are definitely still some cons with a glass tank.
Glass tanks are typically made with metal, and can sometimes have a green tinge to it. Glass also weighs a LOT more than acrylic. The larger the glass tank the heavier it gets. This is why most glass manufacturers don’t make very large tanks. You can have them custom-built, but I hope you have a lot of friends or a forklift. Glass tanks are also held together with silicone, so there is always a chance that they can leak over time.
Acrylic tanks are made of a crystal clear, cell-cast material. They are lightweight, and the quality is unsurpassed both structurally and visually. The seals are chemically bonded together insuring a lifelong, leak proof seal. The acrylic aquarium has been known mostly for its use as a “custom” aquarium. This style of tank is often seen at large zoo aquariums and in custom home installations. As acrylic is a type of plastic, it is easily molded into any shape imaginable and carries the trademark for its ability to fit into places that glass aquariums can not. You will always get what you pay for, and acrylic is usually more expensive than glass.
With today’s technology you can get glass tanks that are made with less metal and are more clear view, called “starfire”. These tanks are more durable and harder to scratch, but if you do scratch a glass tank there is no easy way to get the scratches out. Acrylic tanks scratch easier but can be buffed out, even with the water still in them.
If you are looking for a tank that is a standard size, free-standing unit, under 200 gal; glass may be a more cost-effective option for you. Our tank in our dining room is actually a glass tank and it is a 210 gal.
If you’re wanting a larger or custom size, and great quality, then acrylic is the way to go. Our next tank is going to be HUGE once I can talk the lady into it, so we will need acrylic. Maybe a gigantic round stingray tank?
Keep in mind if you are doing an in-wall aquarium, glass tanks are made with a trim piece around the bottom, acrylic tanks are not. A flush edge will usually be more convenient to build around.
Both glass and acrylic tanks serve their intended purpose well and it will ultimately depend on your situation and desired installation. Remember to weigh the pros and cons carefully as your decision will likely be in place for years to come.