Hours of calm enjoyment can be had watching a reef aquarium.

Glass vs. Acrylic Aquariums

Starting a new aquarium requires hobbyists to make a lot of choices. What kind of corals, if any will be kept in the aquarium? Where is the aquarium going to go? What size will it be? How much will be spent on equipment? Will the aquarium be glass or acrylic? All of these questions could have their own articles, but I will be talking about the difference between an acrylic aquarium and a glass aquarium and possibly which is better.

Acrylic Glue can weather unevenlyWhat is the difference between these two materials?

Acrylic, also known as poly (methyl methacrylate), is a type of transparent plastic. It is lightweight and shatter-resistant. Glass, on the other hand, is a heavier material made of mostly silica. When it comes to the actual material comparison of glass and acrylic, acrylic seems like a more reliable material. It is light and durable. Glass is heavier and more likely to break, but does this matter when it comes to choosing aquariums?

Weight and durability: does it matter?

When it comes to aquariums, using a heavier material does not really matter. Moving your aquarium is not something you will often do or something you should do often. Having a lighter material may be convenient when first setting up the aquarium, but it will not make a difference afterward. It is the same thing for durability; after the aquarium is set up, it should not matter much. You should be careful around your aquarium either way. You actually have to be more careful with acrylic. While it is less likely to shatter or crack, it is inevitable that it will get scratched up. An aquarium is more susceptible to scratches than a high force impact.

Visibility

Now we come to the factor that depends the most on what kind of glass you choose. Being that the hobby rewards you in ways of looks, it is important to have a material that will offer the best visibility. The problem with some types of glass is the blue tint that comes with it. While acrylic does not have this tint, it sometimes gets a cloudy or foggy look as it ages. Scratches will impede visibility as well. This should not be much of an issue as long as you are careful. So does this mean acrylic is better for viewing?

No, it does not. Like said, it really depends on what type of glass the aquarium is made with. Finding a glass aquarium with that undesirable blue-green tint used to be common, but most commercial aquariums are now made with high clarity glass. This glass is crystal clear, much clearer than acrylic. This is possible by making the glass with low iron properties. Acrylic, on the other hand, can yellow over time, which is ugly looking.

Overall glass is better for viability because it does not scratch as easily. You will often find that acrylic aquariums have a “rough” look to them, which is not ideal when displaying elegant fish and beautiful corals.

Price

We all know this hobby is not cheap, so it is important to make sure that you always get the best value for what you are buying.

If you have ever built your own aquarium or sump, you have likely seen the difference in price between acrylic and glass. Most people may think acrylic is cheaper, but it isn’t. The plastic material is more expensive than glass. This does not mean that a glass aquarium will always be cheaper than an acrylic aquarium. There are many reasons why some aquariums are more expensive than others. Some aquariums have far more features, while others are just plain boxes. Nonetheless, by using glass, aquarium makers can spend more money on other features. This does not mean that glass is a low-quality material. The main reason glass is cheaper is simply because it is more popular for aquariums. More glass aquariums are manufactured than acrylic aquariums, making them cheaper.

More on picking an aquarium

The aquarium material is important, but it is not everything when it comes to picking out an aquarium. You will also need a stand and some form of filtration. It can be an all-in-one style, hang-on-the-back filtration, or a sump. If you can, get a tank with a sump. It is also important to ensure that the aquarium you purchase is built with quality. Both the aquarium and the stand should be reliable and built to last. Don’t buy a tank that is poorly designed or poorly put together.

CADE reef S2 aquariums

The CADE Reef S2 aquariums are made of OptiClear glass. This glass is extremely clear and lacks blue-green tints. OptiClear Glass is titled as the clearest glass you can buy. It is used for things other than aquariums but is great for aquariums. CADE reef S2 aquariums are built with the best materials that will make viewing fish and corals an amazing experience each time.

These aquariums could easily be many hobbyists dream tank. They come with a stand, sump, plumbing, and auto top off. The ATO is part of the tank between the intake and returns section. There are five size options. The smallest has a display of 57-gallons and the largest has a display of 171-gallons. CADE Reef S2 aquariums are extremely well engineered. The actual aquarium, the stand, and the sump have had a lot of thought put into them. This aquarium line-up certainly raises the bar.

 

When it comes down to it, glass is the better material over acrylic. Still, you should make sure that everything else about the aquarium is good as well.

521 thoughts on “Glass vs. Acrylic Aquariums”

      1. I had a small acrylic tank before and it scratched way too easily – have gone with glass ever since and it seems much more durable.

  1. I’ve always done glass so I don’t want to comment on acrylic but glass has been nothing but perfect for me.

  2. Had an acrylic tank 20 years ago, glass is the only way. Stays clear and scratches less likely during maintenance.

    1. Glass is heavy but acrylic is a little lighter. Acrylic also scratches very easily so you must be careful when cleaning.

  3. Glass for sure. I don’t want to always have to worry about scratching the acrylic and glass can take a lot of that abuse.

  4. I always heard that acrylic can stratch easily. I have a turtle tank that is made out of glass and I haven’t had any issues.

  5. glass, that said my 1st large reef was a 240 acrylic man that was nice to move. fast forward to today move both a res sea reefer 650p as well as 750XXL.

    let me say this when your are move a big tank you are wishing for acrylic when its up your a wishing for glass…

  6. Always had glass tanks… Acrylic scratch s to easy…. wouldn’t be apposed to trying one… Glass tanks are easier to keep clean

  7. I think for display tank Glass, but maybe the sump should be acrylic, I think I might be scared to chip the sump moving equipment in and out

  8. John Worthington

    I was definitely into using acrylic tanks for a long time but have since changed my mind and gone back to glass acrylic scratches so easy

  9. I only have glass but have heard that acrylic scratches easier but you can buff it out easier than scratches in glass which requires chemicals to buff out scratches. Acrylic is lighter but more expensive and I hear it is a bit clearer.

  10. Generally prefer glass, but acrylic does have its place. Design-wise, there are things that are easily done with acrylic that would be absurdly expensoce with glass.
    Also, because acrylic is stronger, it has major benefits for very large tanks (the kind that don’t come in a box).
    Its also nice that acrylic can have scratches removed, which is basically impossible with glass (not that you’d want to)
    It’s also worth noting, some of the higher clarity glass is also easier to scratch. Win some, lose some, but material science can be very interesting.

  11. I think acrylic has passed it’s time. There is such huge improvement on the glass used today that it’s the only way to go!

  12. Glass will always be my choice for main display. Use acrylic in fish room where it doesn’t really matter what the tank looks like long term.

  13. Plan to upgrade and am considering acrylic due to weight factor and my location. Have a glass tank now and see the advantages f glass.

  14. I’ve always used glass and will stick with glass for saltwater for sure! Can’t risk the easy scratches while cleaning the glass daily!

  15. kchristensen8064

    Glass all the way! It may be heavier but once you have it in place you shouldn’t have to move it. Acrylic just scratches way to easy for my liking.

  16. I have a tough time on this, glass is heavy but don’t get scratches, acrylic is much lighter but does get scratches much easier. When you have health issues where heavy isn’t a choice without help, makes rubbing scratches out look easy. So it is a personnel choic
    e

  17. Glass if you want to view what is inside. Never had a tank break and don’t usually move them around so weight and breakability less of a concern than scrubbing. Like non-stick pans, the more you use them and “clean” them, the sooner they start getting imperfections.

  18. I’ve owned acrylic and never again will I. No matter who makes it or what they promise all acrylic will end up yellowing over time.

  19. Acrylic is easy to scratch but if you’re like coralfish12g and you needed to move your tank maybe semi annually then you’d have a much easier time with that than a glass. That said I prefer glass for the clarity and scratch resistance.

  20. Going on record that these tanks by CADE re bad ass and well thought out. Who would not want such a beautiful piece of engineering?
    That said, I worked in a commercial museaum / aquarium. We had multiple 300 gallon peninsula tanks in acrylic. These met with school kids touching them all the day long and they held up very well. Simply put… there is fantastic glass (CADE) and cheap glass (petco). The same can be said for anything.

  21. Personally glass will forever be my go to, first tank was acrylic and if I looked at that thing the wrong way it got scratches lol

  22. Jennifer Reichardt

    I prefer super clear glass to acrylic. We have both. I feel like the light reflects better off of the glass.

  23. Over the years I have had both custom acrylic and low-iron glass tanks. Each has their pro’s and con’s but I lean toward the low-iron glass tanks simply for the fact that they have the clarity of the acrylic tanks (especially in the larger sizes) and will resist accidental scratches far better. However, costs for low-iron are much higher than the standard glass aquarium and weigh considerably more than same sized acrylic tanks. View each in person at a friend’s home or local fish store and decide which looks best to you.

  24. Acrylic is definitely stronger and should last longer, but glass just looks better to me and acrylic scratches way too easy.

  25. Always had glass, but worked with acrylic… Each have their strengths and weaknesses but I choose glass to own.

  26. I have both glass and acrylic. I like the lightness of acrylic but the scratching is the fallback. Glass is what I prefer.

  27. I like glass, maybe I am old school. I really just don’t like the responsibility and upkeep of acrylic. Plus I would always worry about scratching it>

  28. I’ve had both now, and although acrylic is more expensive, I definitely say it’s worth it for the weight & clarity alone!

  29. A lot of people don’t know this but acrylic is porous and will absorb water overtime and bend as opposed to glass with superior optic quality (light transmission and color rendition) but also lasts years longer…

  30. I prefer the look and ease of a glass aquarium, not having to worry about scratches or sturdiness of the tank. I feel since glass is heavy and sturdy that it is stronger and is going to last longer than acrylic. This is just my preference though.

  31. i prefer glass, only because it has better scratch resistance over acrylic. not as big of a concern in a freshwater setup as it is in a marine tank.

  32. I have acrylic and it does scratch so easily and then the scratches fill up with film and makes just cleaning the view a chore

  33. Never had an issue scratching glass, so never a need to try acrylic. I don’t believe I will ever own an acrylic tank

  34. I’ve had both through the years. Now that aquariums use low iron glass I’m all in on it. Acrylic tanks do have maintenance to keep them from becoming yellow, it just requires polishing them every 6 months or so. My next display tank will be a Cade beautiful workmanship.

  35. Unless I wanted a complex shape ( which are impractical IMO) glass would almost always be my preference because of scratch resistance.

  36. Unless I wanted a complex shape ( which are impractical IMO) glass would almost always be my preference because of scratch resistance.

  37. I have always been a fan of glass tanks. They provide something acrylic can’t. The clarity and weight is nice on an acrylic but high quality class can add durability and clarity as well. Just heavy as all hell

  38. Glass is my preference. I didn’t know that my current 90 is acrylic until I started cleaning it and scratched t with the magnet…

  39. I prefer Glass over Acrylic! Having built dozens of acrylic tanks all the way up to a 250 Gallon Predator Tank the luster of acrylic died. Its far too expensive and preparation takes all too much effort all in the end for scratches to easily appear. Low Iron Glass is far superior in the long run and looks great for years to come!

  40. I have seen the beauty of glass tanks and they are jsut more beautiful than anything else. Plus heard aryclic can tend to scratch.

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