Acrylic vs Glass Aquarium

In this article, you will see the pros and cons of both acrylic and glass aquariums. You will also see a side by side comparison of acrylic and glass aquariums so that you can decide for yourself which type of aquarium is best for you.

Towards the end, I will share with you two lists – one of the five best acrylic aquariums and the other of the five best glass aquariums. You should be able to find at least one aquarium that suits all your fish tank needs from either of the two lists. 

Without further ado, let’s begin. 

The Pros and Cons of Acrylic Aquariums

Pros

  • Acrylic aquariums are light 
  • Acrylic aquariums can be made in many shapes 
  • Acrylic aquariums do not get cold fast 
  • Acrylic aquariums are usually very clean and transparent (at least at first)
  • Acrylic aquariums are less likely to break

Cons

  • They scratch easy 
  • They often become yellow with time
  • They can absorb chemicals 
  • They can cause visual distortion 
  • They can become brittle over time

The Pros and Cons of Glass Aquariums

Pros

  • They are very clear with little visual distortion
  • They are not porous 
  • They do not turn yellow with time
  • They do not scratch easily 
  • They are cheaper 

Cons

  • They are generally heavy 
  • They are available in limited shapes

As you can see above, both types of aquariums have got their pros and cons. The information above also reveals that acrylic and glass are quite different materials.  But how do they compare directly? Well, find out exactly how in the section below. 

The Differences Between Acrylic and Glass Aquariums

The table below is a side by side comparison of acrylic and glass aquariums. It shows the differences between the two types of aquariums.

Attribute  Acrylic  Glass
Clarity  Becomes yellow with age Stays clear forever
Impact resistance Great Not so great
Shapes Can be made into many shapes Can only be made into limited shapes
Weight  Light  Relatively heavy 
Scratching  Easy to scratch  Not easy to scratch
Cost  Expensive Cheap

 

The section below is basically an explanation of the table above. It explains how the two types of aquariums compare with regards to different attributes/ qualities.

Clarity

Concerning this attribute, glass aquariums are the best. This is because they let in maximum light and they stay clear forever. Acrylic aquariums are usually very clear at first but they yellow or become hazy with age. When exposed to UV light, they become hazy even faster because the light affects them. So if you want an aquarium that is clear on day 1 and will stay clear forever, you better go for a glass aquarium. 

Impact Resistance

With regard to this quality, acrylic aquariums are the best. Glass, as you know, is not very resistant to impact. If you knock or bump a glass aquarium with a significant force you will likely break it. In contrast, if you knock or bump an acrylic aquarium with the same force, you will probably not break it. So acrylic aquariums have better impact resistance. 

Shapes

In terms of shapes, acrylic aquariums are the best. This is because, unlike glass, acrylic is not hard or brittle and it can be even curved without causing any image distortions. So acrylic can be worked into more types of shapes compared to glass that can only be shaped into a rectangular or square shape. 

Weight

In terms of weight, acrylic aquariums are the best. This is because acrylic, as a material, is much lighter than glass. Therefore, acrylic aquariums are lighter than glass aquariums.

Scratching 

With regard to this quality, glass aquariums are the best. This is because glass does not scratch easily (at least not as easily as acrylic). Hence if you want an aquarium that will stay clear for a long time and won’t get scratched easily, you better pick one that is made of glass.

Cost

Acrylic aquariums are more expensive than glass aquariums. This is something most people do not know. Most people actually assume the opposite – that glass aquariums are more expensive. However, this is not the case. It is the acrylic ones that are more expensive.

The Overall Winner

In my opinion, glass aquariums are better than acrylic aquariums. This is because they have better clarity, they are resistant to scratching, and they are cheaper. The only flaws glass aquariums have is that they are heavier, not very resistant to impact, and cannot be made into many shapes.

However, these are not really flaws if you put them into context. For example, yes glass aquariums are heavier but you will probably never need to carry yours. This is because once you put it in the right place, it will stay there forever. So the fact that glass aquariums are heavier does not really matter.

Similarly, the fact that glass aquariums are not very resistant to impact does not really matter. This is because you are supposed to set up your aquarium in a space or corner where you will never bump it or knock it. So if you do this, then it does not really matter if your aquarium is resistant to impact or not because you will never subject it to any impact.

And with regards to shapes, indeed, glass aquariums can only be either square or rectangular. But this is not really a flaw because most people actually prefer rectangular aquariums. 

Therefore, my conclusion is that glass aquariums are better than acrylic aquariums. If you agree with me, then take a look at the first list below. It has got the best glass aquariums on Amazon. If you do not agree with me, take a look at the second list below it. It has got the best acrylic aquariums available on Amazon. 

The Five Best Glass Aquariums

  1. MarineLand Contour Glass Aquarium Kit with Rail Light

This is one of the best-rated glass fish tanks on Amazon. Over 600 people have given it an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars. This shows that it is an excellent product that has impressed the majority of those who have used it. 

The best thing about this product is its exciting design. It features a really clear glass body with rounded corners that allows you to look into it from any angle except the backside. 

The rail light on top of it is also a very exciting feature. It illuminates everything clearly in the tank and it makes it stand out. The light has moonlight and daylight settings. 

This Marineland fish tank comes in two sizes – there a five-gallon one and a three-gallon one. Both are great for keeping small fish species such as Betta or Tetra fish. 

The only thing you may not like about this tank is that it is not big enough for many fish. 

Pros 

  • It is an Amazon’s Choice glass aquarium
  • It comes in two small sizes
  • It is well designed to allow viewing from different sides
  • It comes with a special rail lighting 
  • It comes with its own filtration system complete a pump
  • It is quite cheap

Cons 

  • It is not big enough for many fish if you observe the 1-inch fish per gallon rule of thumb

Despite not being big enough for many fish, it is a glass fish tank that is absolutely brilliant for people who want to keep one, two, or three small fish species.

  1. Coralife LED Biocube Aquarium LED

This is a 32-gallon fish tank that is absolutely brilliantly made. It can look nice almost anywhere and it can be used to keep more fish than the MarineLand glass aquarium reviewed above. 

The best thing about this glass fish tank is that it is made in such a way that it minimizes the need for additional purchases. For example, it includes an inbuilt LED bar light for lighting purposes and a trickle filter system for filtration purposes. So when you buy it, you will not need to buy an aquarium light or filter system.

Something else that is also amazing about this glass fish tank is the fact that it has a large viewing area. Literally, anyone looking for a fish tank will like this. 

The only thing you may not like about this 32-gallon fish tank is that it is relatively expensive.

Pros 

  • It is an Amazon’s Choice glass aquarium
  • It comes loaded with all the accessories to make work easier for you
  • It looks really nice and has a large viewing area
  • It has a smart light setting that automatically mimics real-life light settings including sunrise, daylight, sunset, and moonlight
  • It is a good-size glass aquarium

Cons

  • It is relatively expensive

Despite this aquarium being relatively expensive, it is worth every cent. This is because it is big and it is loaded with all the necessary accessories. 

  1. Tetra 20 Gallon Complete Aquarium Kit w/ filter heater LED & plants

This 20-gallon is one of the best quality glass aquarium tanks ever made. It is very good quality and affordable at the same time. 

The thing that stands out the most about it is how good it looks. It is something you will not get tired of looking at day after day after day. It is a true beauty.

The aquarium is loaded with all the accessories including the glass tank itself, a special hood, a filtration system, an LED light, and a heater. In addition to all these accessories, this Tetra glass fish tank also comes with multiple water plants. 

In short, this tank can make a fantastic aquarium for tiger barbs, ghost shrimps, tetras, or slender danios. 

It is not the best for experienced aquarists as they may find it difficult to tweak to sustain specific fish species. 

Pros

  • It is an affordable glass fish tank
  • It is a beautiful glass fish tank that comes with all the accessories required
  • It comes with multiple aquarium plants to enhance its aesthetics 
  • It comes with a smart LED light that changes lights on its own
  • It has its own filtration system

Cons

  • It is not really suitable for experienced aquarists 

This is a magnificent fish tank that is absolutely brilliant for beginning and intermediate aquarists.

  1. Caroline Biological Supply Company Aquarium Tank

This is a 10-gallon glass tank. That is all there is to say about it because it does not come with any other thing like the other glass tanks reviewed above. If so, why did I include it in this list? Because it is absolutely perfect for intermediate and experienced aquarists who want to build their own aquariums from scratch. 

It is a perfect aquarium glass tank that is strengthened and leakproof. And it can be used to build either a saltwater or a freshwater aquarium. 

Pros 

  • It is very cheap as it is aquarium glass only 
  • It is great for building your own aquarium from scratch
  • It is made of triple-strengthened glass
  • It can be used to build either a freshwater or saltwater aquarium

Cons 

  • It does not come with any accessory 

This glass tank is brilliant for those looking for a plain glass tank to build their aquariums from scratch. 

  1. Penn Plax Curved Corner Glass Aquarium Kit

This glass tank is available in two sizes – 3.4 gallons and 10 gallons. It is one of the best glass fish tanks because of its unique frameless design that makes it perfect to view from all front sides. So if you are looking for a great fish tank with unobstructed viewing, you should strongly consider this one.

The tank is sold with a filter, an LED light, and a lid. So it is pretty much complete. You just need to buy a couple of things separately to set it up. 

It is perfect for keeping goldfish, bettas, and ghost shrimps.

Pros 

  • It comes with pretty much all the needed accessories 
  • It has an efficient filter
  • It is a breeze to maintain 

Cons 

  • Its lid is cheap and not very useful

The five best acrylic aquariums on Amazon

  1. SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set

This is one of the highest-rated acrylic aquariums on Amazon. It is multiple times stronger than typical glass aquariums and it is backed by a very long warranty. 

The best thing about it is that it is a big 29-gallon fish tank with a very clear acrylic plastic. It can be used to start either a saltwater or a freshwater aquarium. And it maintains temperature at a very stable level despite outside temperature changes. 

Pros 

  • It comes with a 24-inch light fixture 
  • It is made of very clear acrylic that is multiple times stronger than glass
  • It is impact resistant 
  • It can be used to start even a saltwater aquarium 

Cons 

  • It is quite pricey 

Despite being pricey, this is a very decent and beautiful acrylic aquarium. 

  1. GloFish Aquarium Kit Fish Tank with LED Lighting and Filtration Included

This is one of the cheapest acrylic fish tanks available on the market! Although it is cheap, it is brilliant. 

The aquarium is available in two small sizes – a 3-gallon size and a 5-gallon size – and it is brilliant in the sense that it comes with all the necessary accessories. The accessories include a low power consumption LED lighting, a canopy/ lid with a convenient opening for feeding your fish, and a filter system for eliminating waste. 

The best thing about this acrylic tank is its brilliant filtration system. The system is very efficient and noiseless. 

Pros 

  • It is a cheap Amazon’s Choice acrylic fish tank
  • It has an LED light that makes it perfect for keeping GloFish 
  • It is very beautiful and comes with all accessories 

Cons 

  • It is specifically designed for GloFish 

The fact that this tank is particularly designed for GloFish, means that it may not be the perfect environment for species that differ very much from GloFish. However, if it is GloFish you want to keep, you should definitely go for it.

  1. Tetra Crescent Acrylic Aquarium Kit, Energy Efficient LEDs

 This is a perfect 5-gallon acrylic tank that is easy on the eyes. If you set it up correctly, it is a tank that you will love looking at. 

It is a complete tank. Complete in the sense that it comes with an LED lighting fixture and a filter. You only need to add water and décor to get it ready for your fish. (However, if you want to keep a tropical fish you will need to also add a heater)

This acrylic tank is very durable and almost impossible to break. 

Pros 

  • It is a cheap Amazon’s Choice acrylic fish tank
  • It is curved and has a large and continuous viewing area
  • It is made of a very durable acrylic material 
  • It has an efficient filtration system to eliminate waste, odors, and discoloration
  • It comes with an LED lighting fixture

Cons 

  • The lid on top of it is not the best

Despite its lid not being the best, this is one of the best small acrylic fish tanks. 

  1. Koller Products AquaView 2.5 gallon Fish Tank

This is the smallest tank on this list. It is also one of the most affordable. Despite these attributes, you can use it to make a very beautiful aquarium for one or two small fish. It has a trendy all-side viewing design and comes with an LED lighting fixture that illuminates it brightly from the inside. Therefore, if you install it properly, it is something that you will love seeing all day long. 

The tank is loaded with a power filter. So it gets cleaned frequently and stays safe for fish.  It is also leakproof, durable, and backed by a satisfaction guarantee.

Pros 

  • It is cheap and affordable 
  • It is a small fish tank
  • It has very clear acrylic and an impressive design
  • It has a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee 
  • It is very easy to maintain 

Cons 

  • It may be too small for some common types of fish

Despite being too small for some popular type of aquarium fish species, it is a great fish tank that can be used to make a great aquarium for one or two small fish e.g. bettas.

  1. biOrb Flow 30 Aquarium with LED

This is perhaps the most stylish acrylic aquarium ever made. It is lighter than most glass aquariums, stronger than most glass aquariums, and clearer than most aquariums on the market. It is frankly a masterpiece of a fish tank!

It may be a bit expensive for an 8-gallon fish tank but that does not matter. This is because it has a beautiful design that provides unobstructed views, a powerful multi-stage filtration system, and an LED lighting fixture to illuminate it to the maximum. In short, its price is worth it because it has very decent accessories. 

It also comes with an air pump and an air stone for releasing bubbles into the tank. This helps with the circulation and oxygenation of the aquarium water to make it healthier for fish.

In short, what I can say is that this is one of the best of the best aquariums on the market. 

Pros 

  • It is loaded with accessories
  • It comes with a powerful filtration system
  • It has great LED lighting 
  • It comes with an air pump and an air stone
  • It comes with a water conditioner and a liquid for building beneficial bacteria

Cons  

  • It is a bit expensive 

Although this tank is a bit expensive, it is honestly one of the best small acrylic tanks ever made. 

Conclusion

Both glass and acrylic aquariums have their pros and cons. But based on the side by side comparison I did, it is clear to me that glass aquariums are better than acrylic aquariums because they have better clarity, they are cheaper, and they are less likely to scratch.

Their flaws, when compared to acrylic aquariums, do not really matter as explained earlier. The best five glass aquariums on Amazon include the Penn Plax Curved Corner glass aquarium and the Tetra glass aquarium. While the best five acrylic aquariums on Amazon include the GloFish Acrylic Fish Tank and the SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium.