The Definitive Guide to Choosing Between Glass and Acrylic Aquariums for Your Next Project

How to Choose Between Glass and Acrylic For Your Aquarium Project

From a scientific perspective, when the thickness of glass is increased its optical clarity properties are reduced. It is a fact that glass is far more resistant to scratches than acrylic material but there are instances where glass does indeed become scratched. Whatever causes acrylic material to become scratched, it will eventually scratch even the toughest glass material.

Most importantly to know, when glass does become scratched, it is nearly impossible to repair. As a result, aquariums made of glass that have become scratched typically require the glass to be replaced. Even more concerning is when glass becomes cracked there is very little choice when it comes to fixing it. In other words, cracked glass almost always must be replaced. Replacing a glass panel because of a crack, imperfection or heavy scratching is simply a fact when building an aquarium that has glass components.

Far More Versatility and Durability

Those who do choose glass as a preferred material when designing an aquarium or some other type of water retaining structure should use a particular type of glass material. This type of glass is usually referred to as laminated temper glass. It offers far more versatility and durability when designing an aquarium. Simply stated, tempered glass is more resilient, robust and long lasting as compared to other types of standard glass material.

Remarkably Higher Impact Resistance

Even more important is the fact that tempered glass offers remarkably higher impact resistance in contrast to other types of glass. As with an automobile windshield, when tempered glass breaks it fractures into small pieces or shards. Conversely, standard glass material usually breaks into sharp jagged pieces and shards that can be dangerous.

In addition, acrylic has important properties that should not be ignored when considering material for the construction of an aquarium. As a matter of fact, acrylic is a multitude of times stronger and weighs much less than glass. Unlike glass, acrylic is less likely to have weak points or flaws that result in breakage. Glass indeed has many advantages however the possibility of failure can never be completely eliminated. Acrylic is a more predictable type of material that reduces the probability of potential failure points.

Here are a few key performance parameters when comparing acrylic to glass for aquarium construction.

Strength

Glass is simply not as strong as acrylic. Acrylic can be up to more than a dozen times stronger than even the best glass material. When it comes to shear strength acrylic will always be far more impact resistant than glass. Acrylic offers greater strength when it comes to protecting a substantial investment in an aquarium.

Clarity

Those concerned about better viewing when designing an aquarium will find that acrylic is almost 90% more transparent than glass equally thick.

Insulating Properties

Acrylic is known for its superior capabilities when it comes to insulating. In fact, it is clearly better in terms of insulation as compared to glass. Acrylic boasts more than 30% better insulation capabilities overall. Ultimately this results in more stable and consistent temperature control especially when dealing with a highly sensitive fish species. As an added note, acrylic is an excellent material when perspiration is an issue, especially with cold water related systems.

Refraction

Simply stated, acrylic offers less distortion and a more accurate picture of the interior of an aquarium as compared to glass. Acrylic is very similar to water when measuring refraction.

Distortion

Glass is known to distort objects on the interior of an aquarium especially where curvatures are involved. Acrylic is a superior material in terms of reducing distortions.

Shaping Properties

Unlike glass, acrylic is highly receptive to thermoforming allowing for the creation of just about any shape or design imaginable.

Bonding

When an aquarium is made of conventional glass it typically requires the use of silicone to create adequate seals resulting in several disadvantages. Silicone can be unattractive and unreliable when it comes to creating a permanent bond. With less shear and tensile strength then acrylic bonds, silicone is often problematic in trying to create the perfect aquarium environment. Acrylic on the other hand is unique in that it can be chemically bonded to join two pieces together. This affords greater dependability and reliability when custom crafting even the most complex aquarium environment.