Acrylic vs. Glass – Aquariums / Fish Tanks – Which is better? Pros & Cons

So you’re ready to purchase a new Aquarium or add another to your collection but you’re stuck choosing between a Glass Tank or an Acrylic Tank. It can be a tough decision but both tanks are perfectly capable of holding your fish, so don’t put too much thought into it. I will go over the few basic points each type of tank has to offer as well as the pros and cons for each type. They both have some compromises, so perhaps you’ll end up like me and have some of each in your Fish Room.

Pictured is a standard 75 gallon Glass Aquarium

For starters I’d like to get one thing out of the way, neither type of Aquarium is better than the other. You’ll find many people claiming one is better but that is usually based on preference and nothing more. They will both hold water perfectly fine. So now that we’ve got that out of the way, we’ll move onto the specifics of each.

Pictured above is a 110 Gallon Clarity Plus Acrylic Aquarium, this tank was very hazy as it was purchased used. You can read up on how we polished it and restored it to the condition above here.

Glass Tanks are the most common type, you’ll see many more of these than Acrylic tanks. The simple reason? Cost. Glass tanks cost much less to build, therefore they are cheaper and more common. It doesn’t make them inferior, they are just inexpensive, especially in smaller sizes. The Glass tank is pretty much the industry standard but it does have some pitfalls as well.

Glass Aquarium Pros

  • Cheaper than Acrylic Tanks most of the time
  • Much harder to scratch but it still can happen
  • Tanks are usually industry standard sizes, making lids and such easy to purchase
  • Easier to clean because there is less need to worry about scratching

Glass Aquarium Cons

  • Heavy – A glass tank is much much heavier than the same size Acrylic tank, making it harder to move
  • Glass can be drilled for bulkhead fittings but it’s much more nerve racking than drilling Acrylic
  • Not as efficient at holding in temperature compared to Acrylic
  • Scratches can not be fixed
  • Harder to fix if you chip or crack a panel, since replacement is usually needed unless it is a small chip
  • Not quite as clear as Acrylic

Acrylic Tanks are great, they are light and easy to move. As well as easy to fix and repair. However they do have some downfalls as well. I tend to prefer them myself, especially in larger tanks because of the weight issue alone. I also like the flexibility of Acrylic, it can be cut and modified much easier. However it also scratches much easier too, this is the one thing many people prefer glass. I’ll leave it up to you.

Acrylic Aquarium Pros

  • Super clear (Unless you get a hazy used one but it can be buffed and polished)
  • Super light weight compared to glass
  • Easier to drill for bulkhead fittings
  • Can be refinished, re-polished and repaired if they break
  • Less likely to break from impact, Acrylic has a bit more give than glass. I’ve dropped a 50lb lighted hood down on a tank full of water and it didn’t break. The impact was tremendous.

Acrylic Aquarium Cons

  • Scratches super easy
  • Harder to clean because you have to be so careful not to scratch it
  • Expense – Acrylic tanks are typically more expensive per gallon
  • Some are not standard sizes, making it more difficult to find lids or lights to fit perfectly

So in conclusion both tanks offer some pros as well as some cons. You may have certain needs for one tank that you don’t for another, meaning both types could possibly suit you. I will personally always choose Acrylic over Glass if I have a choice. The exception being tanks smaller than 75 gallons or so, I don’t mind smaller glass tanks but anything larger and I prefer Acrylic.

2 Comments

  • Debbie says:

    I appreciate your knowledge. I am shopping for an aquarium and want one that is not a hexagon like I have now. Too hard to clean for me. Just aquired comets from some lady. I did have to redo seams not sure I did it right. So now I need a co that I can order from. Am concerned about my filter and if it will work and I do have some tropicals so a heater has to be there. They are so vague so I guess I need to call a company. The hex is pretty but very impractical and I have to have a stool. Just tired of it. Do you recommend any certain company? Thank You Debbie

    • TankTerrors says:

      Are you looking for Glass or Acrylic? I don’t really have a certain brand I’d suggest for either as most are mass produced these days either way unless you go with a custom company which will cost a lot. I will say my newest 40g tank was made by Top Fin and I am very unimpressed with the fit/finish of it and the seams mainly. If it wasn’t for it being $1 per gallon at Petco during the sale I would not have bought it. I have read good things about the Aqueon glass tanks so they are probably good to go in any size. Marineland is also a very reputable brand usually for glass tanks. If you want Acrylic you’ll probably want to order from a custom aquarium maker.

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