If you’re buying a fish tank, one of the first questions you need to ask yourself is – what type of tank should I get? Oftentimes it’s a choice between glass and acrylic fish tanks.
There are some plastic fish tanks out there, but they’re not for anyone except little children and uninformed people who still think that very small tanks are therefore much easier to maintain. On the contrary, these plastic tanks are often so small they’re virtually impossible to care for properly.
Many beginners believe that acrylic aquariums are better simply because they’re generally more expensive. But that’s not always true, and in fact, in some ways, glass aquariums may be a better choice. If you’re still undecided about what type of aquarium you want to get, you should first carefully consider the pros and cons of acrylic aquarium tanks.
In many ways, using acrylic for your fish tank offers you a lot of benefits you may not get from glass alternatives.
- Weight. First of all, when used for a fish tank acrylic isn’t as heavy as glass. In fact, the glass version usually weighs 4 to 10 times as much as its acrylic counterpart. You’ll appreciate your choice of acrylic as a beginner when you try out various locations for your aquarium. Just make sure you first remove the water and the decorations, and it’ll be much easier to move around.
- Resistance to force. Acrylic is also a much stronger material than glass. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to break or even crack an aquarium of this type accidentally. Even if you actually want to break it, you won’t find it easy to do so intentionally. You’ll need an extremely sharp impact to break the material.
- Durability and strength. Another way in which acrylic is stronger is that it doesn’t have to be as thick to support the same water volume as glass does. So if you get a 55-gallon tank, you’ll notice that the glass in the glass tank is a lot thicker than its acrylic counterpart.
- Overflow system drilling. Yet despite the strength of acrylic, you can drill through it so that you can accommodate an overflow system. You can’t do that with glass.
- Scratch repair. When an acrylic tank is scratched, repairing the damage is also much easier than repairing scratched glass. You can get a good acrylic polishing kit from a lot of places, and it’s no trouble to remove the scratch that’s on the outside of the tank. Just don’t use it for scratches on the inside of the tank, because the cleaning chemicals used by these kits can leave a toxic residue that makes the aquarium unfit for marine life.
- Light refraction. Haven’t you noticed that the water sometimes changes how you see things? That’s because the water refracts (bends) light. But acrylic has almost the same index of refraction as light, so the bending of the light is minimal even behind a curved shape. In practical terms, while the refraction may change your perception of the location of the fish, you’ll still see the true size and color of the fish.
With glass, however, you’ll get a lot of distortions regarding the true size and color of your fish.
- Clarity. This depends a lot on the type of acrylic you get, but the best acrylic aquarium will have offer an amazingly clear view. This is much more evident in very large tanks. As we’ve mentioned, the bigger volume of water your tank holds, the thicker your glass will have to be. And thick glass can make things inside the aquarium more difficult to view. Often you’ll see a green tint.
But with high-quality acrylic, it will see as if the container is invisible. And with this quality, you also won’t have any problems with the passage of time. It won’t turn yellow or break down, even when it’s exposed to sunlight for an extended period of time.
- Form and shape. It’s much easier to mold acrylic than glass, and that means you’re no longer constrained in your choice of fish tank shape. If you want something entirely different from a box-like or bowl-shaped tank, then you’ll need to go with acrylic.
There are, however, some drawbacks which you’ll need to live with when you choose acrylic for your fish tank.
- Cost. This is probably the first thing you notice about acrylic fish tanks. They can cost a lot, and sometimes they’re just plain unaffordable. And a large reason for that is because shipping can be difficult. The sellers find it hard to ensure delivery without a scratch. Which leads us to
- Scratching. It’s the scratch factor with acrylic that has bedeviled many aquarium owners through the years. It’s as if every little thing can just cause a scratch, and that means over time your aquarium becomes very hard to see through because of all the accumulated scratches.
These scratches often result from people walking by, and they brush against the surface of the tank with their bags, backpacks, belts, or purses. You’ll also need space at the back of the aquarium for pumps and filters so that you don’t cause any other accidental scratches. And that’s just on the outside.
On the inside, the scratches can result when you brush against the container with your hard decorations and aquarium accessories. The fish and other marine life can cause scratches too. The scratches on the inside are worse because they’re so hard to get rid of.
- Rigidity and support. You’ll need a lot of support across the top so that you can prevent the material from blowing apart, which can spill water or split the seams. And you’ll also need a thicker bottom for the tank or a stand that can support the entire bottom of the aquarium. These will keep the tank bottom from pulling away from the seams.
- Clarity. This is a problem if you choose low-quality acrylic, which may turn yellow as the year's pass. This becomes more likely when it’s exposed to direct sunlight or if you use a full spectrum light.
Is this safe?
In a word: YES.
It’s actually much safer than glass, and in fact, its strength is part of its appeal. If you live in an earthquake-prone zone, this is a better alternative because the force of the earthquake will shatter glass easily. It’s also the better choice if you have unruly kids who play sports inside the house!
Who is it for?
Now that we’ve listed all its pros and cons it becomes easier to determine the sort of person for whom choosing acrylic aquarium tanks is the best option. Pick this if:
- You can afford it, especially when you're going for high quality acrylic.
- You want a very large tank.
- You're a very careful person and there's really no one who walks by the aquarium on a regular basis.
- You live near a fault line!
Acrylic Aquariums Reviews
If you’re convinced that going acrylic is best for you, then your next step is the find the best acrylic aquarium you can afford. Obviously, you have lots of options to choose from, so we will feature a few that you may find interesting. These don’t have any warranty info, so you’ll need to check in with the company first, and these warranty promises can change at any time.
Kollercraft API Aquaview Corner Aquarium Kit
This is very compact at 2.5 gallons, and it’s tall instead of wide with 9.5 x 9.5 x 11.2 inch dimensions. You also get a very interesting pentagonal shape on the sides although it’s seamless.
It comes with an internal filter and 7-color LED lighting.
With its size, you’ll need to limit yourself to a handful of very small fish.
- It’s made from shatter-proof acrylic.
- It offers a very clear view.
- It doesn’t take much space at all, so it’s perfect for a small office or dorm.
- It makes for great décor.
- It’s quite affordable.
- The size limits your fish options.
- The size also makes maintenance more difficult, especially when you want to avoid scratching the inside.
Tetra Crescent Acrylic Aquarium Kit
This 5-gallon tank has a not quite-rectangular look, and it measures 16.6 x 11.2 x 13.2 inches. It’s perfect for a Betta fish.
It has a mechanical filter and also uses activated carbon to removes discoloration and odors, while the tank is lit by hidden LED lights.
- It’s still quite affordable.
- It’s very light weight at just 1.1 pounds.
- Some owners report that it still works fine after a year.
- The size and configuration makes it difficult to move things inside.
- The size and shape also limits your fish options.
- You’ll have to tweak a few things, like the filter and the lights.
GloFish 29045 Aquarium Kit with Blue LED light
This is also a 5-gallon tank with a curved front like the Tetra. It measures 15 x 9 by 14.5 inches. It has a Microfilter and Medium Bio-Bag along with 15 blue LED lights.
Unsurprisingly, the manufacturers recommend GloFish for this tank, so start with just 1 or 2 (preferably just 1). Bettas should also be fine.
- With GloFish, it really looks great.
- It’s very quiet.
- Relatively easy to maintain
- Again, the size limits you to a betta or a GloFish.
- It’s a little bit more expensive that other comparable tanks (like the other Tetra 5-gallon).
SeaClear 20 gal Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set
At last we come to the bigger tanks. This one measures 24 x 13 x 16 inches.
You’ll have to buy a separate filter, but it comes with a reflector and an electrical 15" light fixture.
At 20 gallons, you can fit in 20 inches of fish at the most for freshwater. For saltwater, you can have 9 inches at the most.
- It’s large enough to offer you some fish variety.
- You have holes through which you can fit in your separate filter and heater.
- You also have holes you can use to feed the fish.
- The lid doesn’t come off, so it can get awkward moving things around inside.
- You’ll need to buy a separate filter.
SeaClear 29 gal Show Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set
This one measures 30 x 12 x 18 inches and is quite hefty at 20 pounds.
Again, you have a reflector, but now you get an electrical 24" light fixture.
For freshwater, you’re limited to 29 inches of fish. For saltwater, you’re limited to about 24 inches.
- You get more even more fish variety.
- You again have the convenient cut-off holes at the top.
- This time the light is inadequate, so you’ll need to buy a light fixture to replace it.
- You’ll also need to buy a filter separately, as well as a heater.
SeaClear 50 gal Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set
Aside from the 36 x 15 x 20 inches size measurements, its setup is basically the same as the other SeaClear tanks on this list.
But with its larger size, you can now go up to 50 inches of freshwater fish. For saltwater, about 37 inches of fish is the limit.
- Now you can add quite a bit of fish.
- Your fish also has a better chance of survival, especially when you limit the size and number.
- It’s really beautiful.
- With a larger tank, you may need more accessories than the holes on the lid can accommodate. That may require some drilling on your part.
- You’ll really have to replace the light.
The bottom line is - you need to get the biggest you can afford, so hopefully you can afford the SeaClear 50-gallon. Its size makes it easy for you to ease into caring for your fish, and drilling through acrylic isn’t really a problem.
For me, this big tank is the best acrylic aquarium of the lot, and you’ll actually save money in the long run.
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