What most people aren't aware of, is that acrylic is more expensive than glass. The price does not necessarily make one better than the other, contrary to popular belief. Both of them have their own benefits and drawbacks and are suitable according to different needs. Glass aquariums have been around for a long time in the industry, where acrylic makes are slowly growing in popularity.
Pros and Cons of Glass Aquariums
Glass is a highly scratch-resistant material that only sustains damage if a sharp object runs across its surface. The glass tank's rigidity is what makes it largely preferred. It requires less structural support at the top to keep the tank from flexing or splitting at its seams, under the weight of the water. You need not give any extra support or bracing to the tank.
Clarity is maintained over time and the tank does not discolor. Apart from this, the most important factor is its reasonably price. This is because the material is easier to ship and does not require the use of complex tools to put it together. Glass is denser than acrylic and thus weighs more. Normally, the amount of weight by which a glass tank exceeds its acrylic counterpart's weight, is about 4-10 times. Glass aquariums bear the risk of breaking or crumbling under extreme impact. They do not provide the ease of being moved from one place to another.
Making a fish tank from glass which is not rectangular in shape is a difficult job. This is due to the make of the glass material, which is rigid and brittle. Curved surfaces have the tendency to reflect smaller or larger things, in a bigger size. Glass tanks are not so easy to be modified and hence it becomes difficult to accommodate any accessories, such as a filter system. As the refractive index of glass is more than that of water, images inside the tank like that of the fish, tend to get distorted. Sizes, colors, and positions, will be distorted from the outside of the tank.
Pros and Cons of Acrylic Aquariums
Acrylic tanks being lighter, are easier to be moved around if the need arises. These tanks are more crack-proof than their glass counterparts. Other than rectangular shape, acrylic tanks come in a wide variety of shapes. This is due to the fact that the material can be easily molded into any shape. Even if it is curved, they offer less distortion than glass.
Ease of modification is another positive feature of acrylic tanks. Accessories can be accommodated without much hassle. Having a refractive index closer to that of water, acrylic aquariums create minute distortions of the objects inside them. Size and color of a fish for example will not be affected, except for a passable error in the position. The vulnerability towards getting easily scratched, is perhaps the most pronounced drawback of acrylic aquariums. Any kind of contact, whether impactful or not, can leave scratches behind. Not only this, but fish, crabs and other inhabitants, can also damage the insides of the aquarium.
Support is required for the entire bottom of the acrylic tank. If not provided, the bottom may pull away from the seams under the weight of the water. The material of the tank is also prone to bowing apart, and either splitting at the seams or spilling water. In order to counter this, the tank requires additional support at the top. Acrylic aquariums are known to acquire a yellow coloration over time, and thus, clarity diminishes over time. These aquariums will cost you more than glass, in the same size. This is mainly due to the higher shipping costs of these tanks.
It can be inferred that acrylic tanks may be a good choice for people who exercise great caution. For those who are comfortable with the distorted images of their fish, knowing that damage is unlikely, can opt for glass aquariums, instead.