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What Type of Acrylic is Used For Aquariums?

Whether for residential or commercial use, high-end aquariums symbolize prestige and luxury. If you are a fan of aquariums or want to have one in your house, lobby, hotel, or bar, you may be interested to know what type of acrylic is used for aquariums.

Fear not; below, you’ll read all about the different types of acrylic for aquariums and how they compare.

Why Choose an Acrylic Aquarium?

Acrylic is a very popular material for aquariums because it is lightweight but strong and has good optical clarity. Compared to glass, acrylic is much stronger and less likely to shatter. 

Acrylic is also more impact-resistant than glass, and it’s harder to break when exposed to accidental impacts or vibrations. Additionally, acrylic allows better light transmission (up to 92%), vital for maintaining a healthier underwater environment. 

Furthermore, this material has less green tint than glass, allowing more light to penetrate the tank, promoting better plant growth and enhancing the colors of fish and other aquatic life.

Another reason to choose acrylic for an aquarium is that it can be shaped and molded into more intricate designs. It allows us to express your creativity in designing unique, high-end aquariums that are functional and aesthetically pleasing.

What Type of Acrylic Is Used for Aquariums?

In the process of making aquariums, it is important to choose the right material to ensure the longevity and safety of your aquatic environment.

Cell-cast acrylic

The most common type of acrylic used for aquariums is cell-cast acrylic. Cell-cast acrylic is made by pouring liquid acrylic between two sheets of glass, which are then pressed together and cured to form a solid sheet.

This process produces a high-quality material that is clear, strong, and resistant to yellowing over time. Cell-cast acrylic is also less prone to warping and cracking than other types of acrylic, making it an ideal choice for large and complex aquariums.

You can make tanks, sumps, see-through pool panels, etc., from the cell-cast acrylic. Cell-cast acrylic aquariums are safer, as they are less likely to shatter and cause injury.

In addition to its strength and durability, cell-cast acrylic is also highly customizable. It can be easily cut and shaped into various forms, making it an excellent choice for custom aquarium designs. The material can also be easily polished to remove scratches and restore clarity.

Benefits

  • High transparency and clarity
  • Lightweight
  • Impact-resistant
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Easy to shape
Cell-cast acrylic aquarium
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: leungchopan

Extruded acrylic

Extruded acrylic, or PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate), is a lightweight, thermoplastic material. It is transparent, with a high level of clarity that allows for excellent light transmission, making it a great substitute for glass in many situations. 

Extruded acrylic can be easily cut, drilled, and shaped into various forms and sizes. It is commonly used in aquariums as it has excellent optical properties that allow for clear viewing of the aquatic environment. 

Moreover, it is shatter-resistant, making it a safer choice than glass in environments with a risk of impact. However, extruded acrylic is more prone to scratching, affecting its appearance over time. 

Additionally, it is important to ensure that the acrylic used in aquariums is of high quality and free from any contaminants or impurities that could harm aquatic life.

Benefits

  • Clarity
  • Strength 
  • Lightweight
  • Versatility
  • Resistance to UV damage
  • Easy to clean

Cast acrylic

Cast acrylic, or polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), is a thermoplastic, durable, and optically transparent material. It has excellent clarity and is resistant to weathering and UV radiation. 

It can be easily fabricated, machined, and polished to a high gloss finish. Cast acrylic has a density of approximately 0.042 lbs/in³ and a melting point of around 320 °F. 

It is an excellent choice for aquariums due to its lightweight nature, customizability, and safety. If you’re setting up an aquarium, it’s worth considering cast acrylic as your material of choice.

Benefits

  • Celar
  • Lightweight
  • Impact-resistant
  • Hard to scratch 
  • It can be shaped easily
Factors to Consider When Choosing Acrylic for Aquariums 
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: hedgehog94

Factors to Consider When Choosing Acrylic for Aquariums 

Now that you know what type of acrylic is used for aquariums, let’s see the important factors to consider when deciding which material to use. 

Clarity

Acrylic has excellent transparency, but the quality can vary depending on the manufacturer and the quality of the raw material used. You should look for acrylic that is crystal clear, without any yellowing or hazing.

Thickness

Acrylic thickness is an important consideration, as it affects the strength and durability of the aquarium. Remember that the thickness you need will depend on the aquarium size. 

Strength

Acrylic is stronger than glass and can withstand more impact. However, the strength can vary depending on the quality of the acrylic.

Flexibility

Acrylic is a flexible material, which makes it less prone to cracking or shattering. This is especially important for large aquariums subjected to temperature changes or other stresses.

UV resistance

You should look for acrylic treated with a UV stabilizer; otherwise, it can change color and become yellow over time.

Chemical resistance

Acrylic can be affected by certain chemicals, such as ammonia and chlorine. You should choose acrylic resistant to these chemicals to ensure a long lifespan for your aquarium.

Cost

Acrylic is generally more expensive than glass, but it offers several advantages you can get only with this material for aquariums. Consider your budget when choosing the type of acrylic to use for your aquarium.

Taking into account these factors, you can choose the best type of acrylic that will provide the necessary strength, durability, and clarity to showcase your breathtaking aquarium.

Extruded, Cast, and Cell Cast Acrylic Compared

Depending on the specific application, they have different properties that make them more or less suitable.

Extruded acrylic is the most affordable option and is often used for aquariums because it is easy to work with and has good optical clarity. However, it is also the most prone to scratching and can warp if exposed to heat or pressure.

On the other hand, cast acrylic is a higher quality material than extruded acrylic and is more resistant to scratching and warping. It also has better optical clarity than extruded acrylic. Nevertheless, it is more expensive than extruded acrylic.

Cell-cast acrylic is the highest quality and the most expensive option. It has excellent optical clarity, is highly resistant to scratching and warping, and is very strong. It is the best choice for larger aquariums and custom installations.

If you don’t know what kind of acrylic is for an aquarium, you can always consult a professional builder of high-end aquariums.

Conclusion

Acrylic is a popular material for aquariums due to its durability, clarity, and ease of customization. But what type of acrylic is used for aquariums? Several types of acrylic are used in aquariums, including extruded, cell cast, and cast acrylic. 

Ultimately, the type of acrylic used in an aquarium depends on the specific needs and budget of the aquarist. It is important to consider the benefits and limitations of each type when choosing the right material for your aquarium.

We hope you clarified the acrylic type for aquariums and we opened new perspectives for your next project.

Neal Moir

Neal Moir

is the owner at Titan Aquatic Exhibits and brings more than a decade in aquarium and acrylic pool wall manufacturing experience.

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