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Why Acrylic Dominates Aquarium Manufacturing

The Clear Choice

Aquariums are becoming popular focal points in homes, hotels, offices, restaurants, and more. As the demand for beautiful aquariums continues to increase, the need for strong yet lightweight materials has also increased. Contrary to popular opinion, many aquariums are not made from glass but plastic.

Plastic makes an ideal product for building aquariums because it can be fully transparent and offers a lightweight option for the design. Acrylic offers great visual clarity and excellent strength without the heavy weight of glass. It’s also easier to customize, allowing aquarium manufacturers to make various shapes and designs. This guide will examine the different types of plastic materials for aquarium designs, their benefits, and how to choose the right option for your project.

What Types of Plastics Are Aquarium Safe?

When choosing plastics for aquariums or the transport of aquatic animals, hobbyists and manufacturers must be careful to avoid harmful chemicals. Some plastics are coated with materials to make them more flame and chemical resistant, but some of these materials can leach into the water and hurt aquatic life.

To find an aquarium-safe plastic, look for one that is food safe. Marine-rated HDPE is a stable, inert plastic that doesn’t leach chemicals into the water, making it a safe option. LDPE and polypropylene are also good material choices.

When it comes to building aquariums, acrylic is the go-to plastic. Acrylic, sometimes called Plexiglass, resists water damage and is stronger than glass against water pressure.

How to Decide Between Glass and Acrylic Aquariums

When manufacturing aquariums, acrylic and glass are the two most common materials used, especially for smaller home aquariums. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, which are worth considering.

Some benefits of acrylic include:

  • Lighter material
  • Easy to repair
  • More durable than glass
  • Less visual distortion

Some benefits of glass include:

  • Scratch resistance
  • Easier to clean
  • A durable option

Some things to consider for acrylic include:

  • Can become cloudy over time
  • Can absorb chemicals

Drawbacks of glass include:

  • When it does scratch, it can’t be repaired
  • Can cause visual distortions
  • Heavy and hard to move
  • No flexibility

Why Acrylic is Better Than Glass

Both acrylic and glass can make beautiful aquariums, but acrylic stands out when choosing between the two materials.

First, acrylic weighs much less than glass. Weight must be considered since you will be filling the aquarium with water. A filled glass aquarium can weigh ten times that of an acrylic aquarium of the same size. If you ever need to move the aquarium, you’ll be glad it is made from acrylic. For larger commercial aquariums, the lighter weight is helpful in design.

Second, acrylic does not easily break if struck. Glass can crack and shatter, but this is rare with acrylic. It is ten times as impact-resistant as glass, a huge perk, especially if you bring an aquarium into a busy home.

Third, you’ll have less visual distortion with acrylic. This means you have a clear view of the fish inside the aquarium. With glass, adding water creates a high index of refraction, so the fish size and color can change.

Fourth, acrylic is about 17 times stronger than glass. In large commercial aquariums, it can withstand the pressure of thousands of gallons of water more easily and with a thinner sheet. 

Finally, acrylic can be molded more easily than glass. You'll want an acrylic model if you want an aquarium with a unique shape beyond the standard rectangle. Acrylic makes this easy if you are building a commercial aquarium and want to include arches and tunnels. With acrylic, these curved lines also create minimal distortion of the fish behind, which is an added benefit.

Both glass and acrylic have their benefits, but acrylic stands out for most applications.

Where to Buy Acrylic Sheet?

Piedmont Plastics has several options if you are in the market for an acrylic sheet to design an aquarium. We offer cast and extruded acrylic in various sizes, colors, and thicknesses. We also have the industrial adhesives necessary to create aquariums that will last.

The versatility and strength of acrylic sheet from Piedmont Plastic make it an ideal choice for anyone building an aquarium, whether a hobbyist at home or a professional engineer building a public aquarium. Let the Piedmont Plastics team know your needs, and we will help you find the best plastic for them.