When looking to start and buy an aquarium you have two choices, Glass or Acrylic. Each will hold water and your aquatic ecosystem equally well, so let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each fish tank material.


900 Gallon Artificial Reef

Acrylic Pros & Cons


Visual Distortion – Acrylic has nearly the same index of refraction as water. This means that when you see a fish in an acrylic tank, the light has only been bent once or twice. Because of this, the only distortion you are likely to see is that the fish is slightly misplaced, but the size and color are true.

Weight – Acrylic fish tanks are very lightweight. They are much easier to move around. Also, they don’t put as much of a strain on the structure which they are standing on as glass aquariums.

Shape – Acrylic is easily molded and formed into almost any shape that can be described – and some that can’t. Acrylic also has less of a tendency to distort things that are behind a curve. Because of these two factors, acrylic aquariums are available in a very large number of shapes – not just rectangular.

Strength – Acrylic tanks tend to be very strong. The material doesn’t need to be nearly as thick as glass to support the same amount of water. Acrylic is also less likely to break or damage.

Insulation – Acrylic is a better insulator in comparison to glass, making it easier to manage a consistent temperature ideal for reef and coral setups.


Scratches – if you own an acrylic tank, it will get scratches. Period. Acrylic is highly scratchable. While impact will not shatter them, pretty much anything will scratch them. Even fish and other inhabitants of the fish tank can easily scratch the acrylic with claws or teeth. You need to be very careful with cleaning and the placement of rocks and substrate, as scratching is definitely a big issue. Of course, acrylic is also easier to repair when it is scratched.

Cost – Acrylic tanks tend to be more expensive than glass tanks.


Aqua FX Built Reef Aquarium

Glass Pros & Cons


Scratches – Glass is much harder to scratch than acrylic is. It is insanely hard to scratch a glass aquarium. You literally need to do it intentionally with something hard like a rock or metal for the glass to scratch. Thus, it maintains its clarity over long periods of time.

Support and Rigidity –Glass can support considerably more than its own weight over distances. Because of this, glass aquariums can be kept on stands with an open or incomplete top with little or no risk. Also, because of this rigidity, glass tanks require less structural support at the top to keep the tank from flexing or splitting its seams under the weight of the water. Giving you the option of an open top or rimless tank, allowing easier access to working inside the tank.

Cost– Typically glass aquariums, unless made of the higher quality Starfire Glass, tend to be cheaper than the acrylic alternative.

Starfire Glass – or low-iron glass – This type of glass achieves both amazing clarity and strong durability. Starfire glass is available in sizes up to 1 inch thick and is the most transparent option in the industry. It manages to have this clarity by only having as little as 10% of the iron content of other forms of glass. This allows over 90% of light to transmit through it compared to 83% for regular glass.  The low iron content also greatly influences the green tint found in standard glass. This helps minimize the “greening” effect typically found in thick panels of glass – giving you the same color depth as Acrylic.

Starfier glass vs regular


Weight – Glass is denser and therefore heavier than acrylic. A glass tank will often weigh 4-10 times as much as an acrylic tank of the same volume.

Visual Distortion – Glass has a different index of refraction than water. This means the as light passes through the air, then the glass, then the water to bounce off a fish and get reflected back through the water, then the glass, then the air, the light is bent four times. Each time the light is bent, the image is distorted. Colors are not quite true, position is not quite accurate, size can be distorted slightly. – Starfire glass greatly reduces this effect.

Breaking and Cracking – A sharp impact will crack – or in extreme cases, shatter – a glass tank, or at least one of its sides. While breaking a glass aquarium is still pretty hard, it’s easier than with an acrylic tank.

Shape – Glass is relatively rigid and brittle. Because of this, it is difficult to make aquariums from glass that are not rectangular in shape. Also, when glass is curved, it has a tendency to bend light even more, increasing distortion.

Insulation – Glass tanks tend to be heat sinks, meaning that they dissipate heat much quicker than acrylic aquariums.

Scratches – while glass much more scratch resistant than acrylic, a scratch in glass is permanent, while scratches in acrylic can be lessened and even removed by polishing.


Both glass and acrylic have their advantages and disadvantages. Because Aqua FX Aquariums mostly creates large custom aquariums, we use acrylic almost exclusively because of its shapeability, weight and strength.


Freshwater Planted Aquarium


So you’ve decided to take the plunge into the exclusive club of aquarium owners. If you haven’t decided already, the next step is choosing whether to have a freshwater, saltwater or reef aquarium!  So which one is best for you?

Freshwater tropical aquariums are colorful and natural, they provide an impressive visual experience requiring a less demanding maintenance schedule and lower operating costs.

However, if you were to go for a heavily planted freshwater aquarium for example, additional special lighting, fertilizers and carbon dioxide will be required and the costs can really add up fast.

The fish in freshwater aquariums are inhabitants from rivers, lakes and streams. They aren’t always as vibrantly colored as saltwater aquarium fish, but can definitely come in an array of amazing patterns and unique shapes. The combination of the earthy colors and sleek lines of freshwater fish and fauna can look particularly striking in a luxurious interior. Variations and combinations of rocks, woods, plants and sands can be sculpted to suit your preference, resulting in a relaxing, zen-like visual.

Freshwater inhabitants also tend to be much hardier and generally less expensive than their saltwater counterparts. They are also more tolerant of changing tank conditions than saltwater fish.


When it comes to saltwater fish, truth-be-told the biggest difference from freshwater fish is – personality.

A saltwater fish tank opens you up to keeping creatures from oceans and seas all over the world. While amazingly colorful and exciting, truth-be-told the biggest difference from freshwater fish is – personality. The ability to keep species from different parts from the sea opens you up to an amazingly diverse world of behavior.  From the symbiotic relationship of the Clownfish and anemone, to the Hawkfish perching on a rock, to Gobies that chew up sand to sift through for food or the Cleaner Shrimp keeping its tank mates tidy. It’s a diverse eco-system, right in your own home or office.

A Saltwater Fish-Only Tank or Marine Aquarium is the nomenclature for a saltwater aquarium that only houses fish, along with artificial or non-living décor. The advantages being it’s a more affordable alternative to a reef tank in terms of equipment and maintenance and you’re able to keep fish that would not be safe in a reef environment (read invertebrates or coral predators).

A saltwater reef aquarium is a re-creation of the ocean. Saltwater fish with living corals and invertebrates (shrimp, snails, crabs, starfish, clams, etc). A reef tank also requires live rock for it’s in tank structure.  Natural or aquacultured rock from the ocean, teaming with living micro-organisms and beneficial bacteria. A reef aquarium usually requires more equipment, specific lighting and additional maintenance to keep the water parameters exact as possible. With the ability to support all of these different species in one aquarium, the reef tank is not as forgiving when it comes to water conditions in order to keep all inhabitants flourishing.

Because most of saltwater fish sold in the trade are sensibly harvested from the worlds oceans, the cost is much more than freshwater fish. The cost of collecting a fish in Indonesia, flying it to the United States and then housing it for quarantine is a delicate process. Aqua FX Aquariums quarantines all of the livestock we provide our clients for at least 14 days to insure that they are in optimum health.

No matter what type of living art aquarium you choose, you will always have an exceptional show piece everyone will love.  Every freshwater, marine and reef aquarium created by Aqua FX Aquariums is a fabulous conversation piece that makes an engaging focal point in any room.

Freshwater Aquarium:

  • Tap water system
  • 2-4 week maintenance interval
  • Natural aesthetic
  • Durable and colorful fish
  • Cost effective visual impact

Marine and Reef Aquariums

  • Specialized salt and Reverse Osmosis water
  • 1-2 week maintenance interval
  • Live coral reef wow factor
  • Colorful fish and corals
  • Impressive visual impact with personality


Mushroom coral aquarium


You’ve decided you want to add an aquarium to your home or office. First off, congratulations! You’ve taken the first step to unlocking a whole new world of benefits and enjoyment. Now what? You’ve entered a world of unlimited options and possibilities. It can be overwhelming. Now we’re a bit biased, but we highly recommend working through this process with a professional aquarium company.  The internet has made a vast amount of knowledge available to the aspiring aquarium owner. While a great resource, the one thing the internet cannot provide is years of experience. Working hands on, day in and day out, tackling various problems with carefully vetted solutions, knowing what works and what doesn’t, etc.  It’s a cache of understanding that really doesn’t translate well to a Google search.  Did I mention Aqua FX Aquariums has been in business for over 10 years?  And is staffed by expert aquarists with a combined 40 plus years of experience?  When it comes to making the decision to invest into a successful, enjoyable, long-term aquatic environment, we cannot stress how important it is to work with an experienced company.

You’ve got some decisions to make, actually you have a lot to make.

That said, you’ve got some decisions to make, actually you have a lot to make.  This series of articles is designed to give you an outline of what decisions are important enough for you spend some thought on, regardless of how much you want to, or don’t want to, be involved with your aquarium.  Aqua FX Aquariums client base ranges from hardcore hobbyists who know as much about aquaria as we do, to individuals who just simply say, “Get it done” and really don’t want any involvement in the process.  This series is set up to inform the potential aquarium owners in between those two extremes.

First things first – Where you gonna put this thing?

If you’ve decided that you want an aquarium, chances are you’ve got an idea where you’d like to put it. If not (we’ve had clients who aren’t sure where they want a tank, they just know they want one) that’s ok too!  While an aquarium can be put almost anywhere, we start our advice with a “don’t” first. Direct sunlight. You really don’t want your aquarium where it is going to get a lot of direct sun.  Accelerated algae growth (gets dirty quickly) and possible temperature issues make it a bad choice.  That said, if you absolutely need to have it in direct sun, we’ve learned many different tricks over the years to make it do-able,  just not preferable.

Custom built-in or freestanding?

A freestanding aquarium with cabinetry or an in-wall custom built in?  That’s your first big decision.  Which look do you prefer?

Aqua FX Designed and Installed Living ReefIn-wall Room Divider Reef TankMichigan Reef TankCustom Built-In Half Cylinder


Now that you’ve decided where you’d like your aquarium and if you’re doing a built-in or freestanding system, we can start to hone those choices even more. Will the aquarium be viewed primarily while sitting (like in a living room) or standing? (like in a home bar) We can change both the height of the actual aquarium and the height of the stand to optimize the viewing experience. It’s those little things that we have the experience not to overlook. So that when the finished product is realized your expectations are not only met but exceeded.