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Acrylic tanks have a lot of variance in their overall quality, and to ensure you’ve got a good system going you’ll need to find the best acrylic aquarium. Let’s dive in with our favorites, and then we’ll help you decide which is the best for your next aquatic project!
- Here are the acrylic aquariums I will be reviewing:
- 1. SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set – Best Overall Acrylic Aquarium
- 2. biOrb Tube 35 Aquarium – Best Cylindrical Acrylic Fish Tank
- 3. biOrb Classic Aquarium – Best All-In-One Acrylic Tank
- 4. biOrb Flow (8 Gallons) – Best Desktop Acrylic Tank
- 5. Koller Products 6.5-Gallon Aquarium Kit – Budget Option
- 6. Tetra Crescent Aquarium Kit – Alternate Budget Option
- Why Use an Acrylic Aquarium?
- Acrylic Aquarium Buyer’s Guide
- No Glass, No Problem
Here are the acrylic aquariums I will be reviewing:
- SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set
- biOrb Classic Aquarium
- biOrb Flow (8 Gallons)
- Koller Products 6.5-Gallon Aquarium Kit
- Tetra Crescent Aquarium Kit
1. SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set – Best Overall Acrylic Aquarium
It’s hard to beat the SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set, especially since the sets come for tanks in a wide range of sizes. In my opinion, this is the best acrylic fish tank on the market, and should be the go-to for most aquarists, unless you’re really looking for an all-in-one tank.
The sizes range from 10-50 gallons. That puts them in the right range and there are plenty of geometric shapes available to fill space. The tank comes with a hood and a light in all forms, although most experienced aquarists will replace the latter quickly.
The only real downsides are the price and the light fixture. The light fixture isn’t powerful enough for most natural plants and it’s of mediocre build quality. Quality acrylic tanks are also expensive, which might be a shock for those used to seeing plastic as the cheaper option.
Other than that, the tanks appear to have great build quality. Of particular note is the fact that the acrylic has very high clarity.
Overall, the SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set is one of the best options for those who want to set up an acrylic aquarium in a hurry. Just be aware that the included light doesn’t add up to much.
- High clarity acrylic allows clear views of the tank’s interior
- Great build quality for the tank
- Comes in a bunch of sizes and shapes
- Includes a cheap light fixture
- The tank setup is rather expensive for the size when compared to glass
- The included light fixture isn’t quite up to par with the tank itself
2. biOrb Tube 35 Aquarium – Best Cylindrical Acrylic Fish Tank
One of the best things about acrylic tanks is the wide variety of shapes they come in. Cylindrical tanks are particularly popular, especially when they’re placed where they can be viewed from all angles. In that case, the biOrb Tube series is perfect.
Like all of their tanks, this is a self-contained aquarium. It has a good filter and lights, designed to make the tank easy to set up for beginners. This particular design is 9.6 gallons, allowing for versatile placement in the home as well.
The problem is mainly the expense. Those who have particular tastes in filters, lights, and other equipment will also find that it’s hard to customize the setup.
But that seems to be what they’re aiming for. It’s a complete tank that you can plug and play while maintaining decent standards. The equipment is just made better than the majority of all-in-one tanks.
For those looking for something a bit unique, the biOrb Tube 35 is a great option. It’s a small tank, but it can make an impact as the centerpiece of the room.
- Unique cylindrical shape makes for excellent viewing
- Included equipment is better than most brands
- Good enough lighting for basic aquatic plants
- Low maintenance tank overall
- Can’t customize equipment due to the tank’s unique shape
- Rather expensive compared to tanks with similar volume
3. biOrb Classic Aquarium – Best All-In-One Acrylic Tank
biOrb is a great company and is leading the charge with their acrylic tanks. While not every aquarist’s cup of tea, they’re great for people who want a complete system. This is their classic orb design, a spherical tank ranging from 4-16 gallons.
In addition to sizing, you also have color options for the hardware around the tank. The equipment is all appropriate for the tank, including a light that is powerful enough for most aquarium plants.
These tanks are a bit expensive for the size, even for an acrylic tank. The spherical design also makes retrofitting equipment almost impossible. It’s a good idea to regularly check on the air pump as well, the size of the opening is quite small and can lead to a low oxygen environment quickly.
These are minor trade-offs for most people, and the larger versions are a great way to get started in the hobby. Add in the unique aesthetic and it’s clear why biOrb has enjoyed so much success in recent years.
For an all-in-one tank that will last for a long time, the biOrb Classic is almost ideal. Cost aside, the problems created by its design are mainly of concern for experienced aquarists.
- An all-in-one design that has potential to last
- Excellent overall construction
- Strong enough lights included for plants
- Great aesthetic
- High cost compared to similar volume tanks
- You’re stuck with the included equipment due to tank design
4. biOrb Flow (8 Gallons) – Best Desktop Acrylic Tank
The BiOrb Flow is a smaller tank, designed for desktop use. BiOrb is one of the best manufacturers of acrylic fish tanks out there, and their all-in-one systems are well done. This is a rectangular tank, I recommend going with the larger 8-gallon version. The 4-gallon variation will be quite touchy for a new aquarist due to the small water volume.
The tank itself looks slick. It has a rectangular shape and broad curves for the corners. It’s the perfect size for a desktop aquarium without going too small. It includes a good light, filter, and air pump which all run off of a 12V transformer. It’s suitable for a planted setup right out of the box, which is great for those who are still learning.
The main problem is the same as with any all-in-one tank: you either need to use the equipment provided or modify the tank for something else. The tank is also expensive and filter replacements are costly.
The good news is that it’s a low-maintenance tank that is perfect for just keeping around. Put in plants and water, plug it in, and start cycling. It’s all that needs to be done.
For a low-maintenance desktop tank, the BiOrb Flow is ideal. Just be aware that the stress-free nature of the tank is also going to cost you a bit more than less feature-packed tanks.
- Included equipment is functional and suitable for a planted tank
- Comes in two sizes
- Curved, aesthetic design gives a good all-around view into the tank
- High-quality tank construction, BiOrb’s specialty
- Expensive for the tank size
- Not suitable for a lot of equipment customization
5. Koller Products 6.5-Gallon Aquarium Kit – Budget Option
For a small, affordable tank that has everything in one place, you should take a look here. This 6 ½ gallon tank comes with filtration and everything else needed to get you up and running, and it comes at a relatively low cost.
The tank itself has solid seams and a good overall design. It would be nice if it was mold-formed, but it’s sturdy. It also comes with a decent filter and LED lighting. The lighting comes in a few colors, rather than just white light.
There aren’t any real issues with this tank, at least for the price point. And that’s the rub of it, you still get what you pay for in the end. Expect the filter to last 6 months to 1-year, and a bit longer for the light. This isn’t the best choice for a permanent fixture, but it’s enough for a beginning hobbyist.
They’re not deal-breakers, especially at the lower price point. One thing to keep in mind is that the light is too weak for a real planted tank, and the tank will need modification to use another light.
This is a solid tank for beginners who just want to get their feet wet, but it may not be the ideal solution for those wanting a permanent tank. You get what you pay for, but you still get quite a bit for the low price.
- Solid tank construction and hood attachment
- Moderate price point, most of the cost is going towards the tank
- Includes a filter and light to get you started
- Decent size for beginners with nano-tanks
- Equipment will break down over a year or two and need to be replaced
- Not suitable for planted tanks without extensive modification
6. Tetra Crescent Aquarium Kit – Alternate Budget Option
For beginners, I recommend larger tanks but we don’t all have the luxury of space. The Tetra Crescent is a good choice for beginners to the hobby. It’s well-built while allowing for considerable customization, unlike most tanks on this list.
Customization is important for those seeking to learn about more than just fishkeeping. The Crescent has sufficient space to allow you to use the filters, heater, and other equipment that you want. It’s a step up over included parts that may not last that long.
The downside? The equipment included in the kit is a bit mediocre. The internal filter is enough for a low bioload, but the light really isn’t enough for the majority of plants. You may be able to get Anacharis or Anubias to grow but it’s not going to fuel a jungle.
The good news is that you can change all of that, and it’s still going to cost less than a similarly sized high-end acrylic tank.
For beginners on a tight budget, I recommend getting a closer look at the Tetra Crescent. The included equipment isn’t exactly top-end, but it’s enough to get your fishkeeping journey started.
- Includes enough equipment for a beginner
- Easier to customize than most acrylic tanks
- Great price for what you get
- Excellent bowfront design
- The included filter is a little bit weak for those who want to pack the tank
- The light is subpar if you’re looking to create a planted tank
Why Use an Acrylic Aquarium?
Acrylic versus glass is one of the great debates in the aquaria world. Both have their place, and it’s important to ensure that an acrylic aquarium is what you need.
Compared to glass, Acrylic offers the following advantages:
- Impact Resistance- Acrylic can take a significant impact on its surface without shattering. It’s not invincible, but the impact resistance makes it a good idea for those with kids or boisterous pets.
- Lightweight- Acrylic weighs less than glass. Large tanks made of glass can get heavy and acrylic helps keep the weight down and makes it more convenient to move the tank.
- Unique Shapes- While there are some rimless glass aquariums, acrylic is still better for making unique tanks, including round tanks if that’s your thing.
- Repairable- Many small dings and other damage to acrylic aquariums can be fixed by a newbie DIYer. Glass isn’t a suitable material for non-specialists to work on.
- Initial Clarity- Acrylic is a very close match to the refractive index of water. They’ll look more clear initially, but this isn’t a lasting advantage as we’ll discuss in a moment.
The downsides are as follows:
- Less Scratch Resistance- Glass can’t take impact, but it does a much better job at not being scratched during day-to-day activities. It’s also easier to clean since you don’t have to worry about stray sand or gravel scratching the tank.
- Expensive- Acrylic tanks tend to be more expensive than glass tanks when everything else is equal.
- Requires Support- The bottom of an acrylic tank requires it to be supported. You’ll need to pick a tank stand accordingly.
- Yellows Over Time- Acrylic aquariums will cloud no matter what over time, but you can make it take longer with proper care. On the other hand, you can’t prevent UV radiation from yellowing the acrylic and making it brittle over the course of a few years.
- Less Insulation- Glass holds temperature for longer than acrylic, which means less heater use is required to keep the tank at the ideal temperature.
So, acrylic aquariums aren’t the best choice for every situation.
For any tank under 20 gallons, you should consider going with glass instead of acrylic. While there are some great little all-in-ones made with acrylic, it’s usually a better idea to work with glass for desk-top tanks.
On the other hand, the following all make acrylic a good call:
- Homes with children may benefit from going acrylic. It doesn’t take much to break any but the thickest of glass aquaria, and once they’re cracked it’s over. Likewise large, active pets may do damage if they get excited.
- You’ll appreciate acrylic a lot when moving a large tank into place. Carrying a 55 gallon or larger tank up and downstairs, through a home, or wherever else it needs to go can be very difficult. Acrylic makes it much easier.
- Large tanks in general are a good place to consider an acrylic aquarium, particularly when you get into the 100 gallons or more range. Acrylic is also often used for very large, custom fish enclosures.
- All-in-One tanks for beginners or children provided that they’re of the right size. Acrylic systems are usually comparable in cost to rimless glass tanks.
Acrylic isn’t the cheaper option, which many people assume. What acrylic mainly offers the aquarist is versatile shapes, weight reduction, and impact resistance, while glass tanks remain the cheaper but longer-lasting option.
For those into very large, custom enclosures acrylic is also a solid option. In that case, however, the enclosure is usually a custom built-in collaboration between the customer and the specialist, who can help figure out if acrylic is really the better option.
For the DIY-inclined, an acrylic tank is also a solid option. While glass is relatively simple to work, it’s an unforgiving medium and outside of the realm of most people’s experience. Many homemade tanks are created using acrylic, particularly when the tank is designed to fit in a certain spot of the home.
More importantly, you can fix dings and scratches on your own if you have an acrylic tank.
Acrylic Aquarium Buyer’s Guide
So, now that we’ve covered who benefits from an acrylic tank, let’s dive into what makes certain tanks superior to others.
This is the big sticking point for acrylic aquariums. They’re not all created equal, but you’d be hard-pressed to figure that out from the listings. Most companies don’t advertise the type of acrylic or thickness in their listings.
Let alone show you welds from the actual product, which is where most of the strength in an acrylic tank comes from.
Most of the common commercial tanks are up to par as long as you’re not diving into the cheap end of the pond.
For seamless tanks (those without rims), you should look extra carefully. Some of them are actually made in one piece in a mold, which makes them expensive but also stronger than a tank with seams.
Tank shape is important, and it’s a major consideration for what kind of fish you can keep.
As a general rule, tanks which are horizontal or square are suitable for most fish. Hexagonal tanks need to be carefully considered, they increase the volume of the tank but limit the amount of “running room.” That makes them bad for fish like Zebra Danio that like to zoom long distances.
That said, the rumors about their effect on behavior or perception appear to be overstated. BiOrb commissioned a study on round tanks. While one can expect bias, there’s nothing wrong with their methods on the surface.
Tall tanks also limit the amount of air exchange at the surface, making them a bad choice for fish that prefer high oxygen levels in the water column. There are fewer oxygenation problems with larger tanks, but anything 10 gallons or under is suspect.
Most acrylic aquariums come as some sort of complete system, which has some advantages and some drawbacks.
A good all-in-one system is a big timesaver, and it keeps you from having to buy other equipment to get yourself up and running.
The question, in most cases, is how long the equipment will keep running. All-in-one aquariums are convenient, but with a few exceptions, the equipment ranges from mediocre to subpar. I consider an all-in-one that doesn’t need a drastic overhaul inside of a year a success.
Some all-in-one designs are easy to service. Often you just need to replace a powerhead to keep the filter running, which is a simple service. My main issue with all-in-one solutions is that they’re hard to customize.
The odd shapes available in acrylic make the problem a bit worse, as do full hoods with lighting.
Plan to replace equipment with an all-in-one tank at some point. With the notable exceptions of Fluval and biOrb the majority of these tanks will get you going but need serious work within a couple of years.
You should do your research to know how large of a tank you need for your fish. It’s always best to go a few gallons above the minimum.
If you’re completely new to keeping aquaria, I recommend a 20-gallon or 30-gallon tank to start. They’re inexpensive enough to start the hobby and the water will stay more stable than in smaller tanks.
I recommend newbies not get a tank smaller than 10 gallons. Swings in water quality in nano tanks are enough to trip up experienced aquarists. Anything smaller than 10 gallons can leave you with no time to react before your fish die.
No Glass, No Problem
Finding a great acrylic fish tank is easy these days, it’s just a matter of finding one that fits your ideal aquarium.
A tough, lightweight tank is ideal for many aquarists’ homes, from there it’s just a matter of how you use it!