Congratulations on your decision to create your very own beautiful custom aquarium! Keeping fish in a freshwater or saltwater aquarium is a great pastime that is richly rewarding. Once you have decided where you will put your new slice of the underwater world, you’ll need to decide whether to use glass or acrylic for your new custom aquarium. Although both materials work well, there are some important differences. Here are some facts to help you make up your mind:

It’s a Custom Aquarium, Not a Scratching Post!

Both glass and acrylic react very differently to scratches. Glass is a hard material that is very difficult to scratch. To scratch glass, you need a relatively hard material and a considerable amount of pressure. A piece of rock or aquarium gravel usually will not leave a scratch if you accidentally rub one up against the glass.

On the other hand, acrylic has a tendency to scratch more easily. Anyone who moves or unloads acrylic aquariums must take care not to scratch the tank. Sometimes, just brushing against an acrylic tank with a handbag or jewelry can cause a scratch. Since you can scratch acrylic rather easily, fish keepers must take care to use acrylic-safe algae scrubbers when cleaning an acrylic tank. Also, make sure you do not accidentally pick up any pieces of aquarium gravel in the scrub pad while you are using it.

Although acrylic aquariums scratch more easily than glass aquariums, you can easily remove most scratches in acrylic by buffing them out. Scratches in glass are much more difficult to remove, and may require a replacement glass panel. Fishkeepers can purchase an acrylic polishing kit in most fish stores. You can use these kits to remove scratches on the outside of the tank. You should not use these polishes on the inside of your tank, as they may leave a toxic residue that could make your custom aquarium unsafe for fish. However, if you are careful when cleaning, you should not get any scratches on the inside of your tank.

Passing the Strength Test

One major advantage that acrylic holds over glass is the fact that it is much lighter and much stronger than a piece of glass of the same dimensions. Especially for larger custom aquariums, acrylic materials save more than half the weight of glass while maintaining the same or better strength and structural integrity. This also means that an acrylic tank will cause less stress on the structure that is supporting it than a glass tank will.

A Shattering Effect You Don’t Want for Your Custom Aquarium!

Another big advantage in using acrylic over class is its ability to withstand heavy impacts. Glass shatters if you hit it hard enough. It takes quite a bit of force to break a glass tank. However, the force required is still far less than what it takes to break an acrylic tank. Acrylic is much more durable and less prone to cracking and breaking than glass is.

Great for Any Shape

Because acrylic is a plastic, you can mold it into almost any shape imaginable. It is far easier to build a curved or rounded custom aquarium with acrylic than glass. Since glass is relatively rigid and brittle, it’s a lot easier to create glass aquariums that are rectangular in shape. It is possible to have curved glass to use with your custom aquarium. However, curved glass tends to be more expensive than flat panels. Curved glass also has more of a tendency to distort light coming into or out of your aquarium. This can make fish on the other side of your custom aquarium appear larger or smaller than they actually are.

They Call it Mellow Yellow

One inherent flaw with acrylic is its inability to withstand ultraviolet light. Over time, exposure to UV light will cause an acrylic tank to yellow, and the material will eventually become brittle. Even acrylic materials that are UV resistant will eventually yellow over time. In the long run, there are no chemicals that can help acrylic stand up to UV light as long as glass can. This process accelerates as you add more UV lights, or the closer your custom aquarium is to a window.

Ask a Custom Aquarium Expert

Both glass and acrylic aquariums have pluses and minuses. The right material for your custom aquarium depends on the design of your aquarium system.

If you’re planning on building a custom aquarium it pays to speak with a custom aquarium design expert. Harold Weiner and his team at Aquatech Aquarium Service have been helping aquarium owners in the Los Angeles area for over 25 years. Whether you need help with a custom aquarium of your very own, aquarium or koi pond maintenance, or just some fish supplies, Aquatech Aquarium Service always has the answer.