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This article aims to provide a run down of your tank options in the common aquarium trade. This article is meant as a guide for beginners choosing their fist tank as well as a information sheet for the more experienced aquarium keeper.


There are two main types of fish tank materials in use today. Other materials have been used to construct DIY fish tanks such as plywood, but because of the rarity of this design it will not be discussed in this summary.


Glass fish tanks are by far the most common type of tank in use today. Glass provides some advantages such as high scratch resistance, but also has its disadvantages.


  • Cheapest per gallon cost for initial set-up
  • Difficult to scratch
  • Tank stand only needs to support edges


  • A scratch in glass is permanent
  • Higher index of refraction - This means less light will penetrate the tank walls, as well as more distortion of the tank's contents when viewed from an angle.
  • Glass is extremely heavy, making your large empty glass tank harder to move when empty
  • Glass is more brittle and easily broken
  • Multiple seams in the tank for multiple points of failure


Acrylic is a relatively new player to the personal fish tank industry. Being lighter and easier to handle it has become increasingly popular with new and experienced aquarium owners.


  • Scratches can be buffed out
  • Lower index of refraction, letting more light into the tank and allowing for more/better viewing angles
  • Acrylic is light, larger tanks become much more manageable when built with acrylic
  • Due to the playable nature of acrylic, it is much harder to break and will not shatter
  • In good construction a single piece of acrylic is used to create the entire tank after production. This is done using a special gluing process that bonds the sides of the tank. This significantly reduces the risk of a tank seam breaking.


  • Acrylic is more expensive per gallon compared to glass
  • Acrylic can be scratched easily, such as when using a blade to clean algae.
  • Acrylic tanks need a stand that will support the entire base of the aquarium

Tempered Glass[edit]

The process of tempering glass makes it much stronger than untempered glass, or annealed glass. This is done by heating the glass and quickly cooling it. What happens is that the outer surface of the glass, since it cools quicker, will compress. The inner area of the glass will be put into tension. When tempered glass breaks it shatters into thousands of pieces, due to this tension, instead of several sharp shards. For this reason, tempered glass is also known as safety glass.

Since this glass is much stronger than annealed glass it is often used for the bottoms of larger tanks. However, it is sometimes used for the walls of fish tanks as well. This is important to know if you have any plans for drilling the glass for plumbing. It is impossible to drill tempered glass, it will shatter. If drilling for plumbing please be sure that any glass you plan to drill is not tempered.[1]

Tank sizes and shape[edit]

Tanks come in a variety of sizes. The most common shape is a standard rectangle. The dimensions of this shape tank can be found on our common tank sizes article. Footprint and base support should always be considered when phrasing a new tank.

Rectangular tanks[edit]

See also: Common tank sizes

Rectangular tanks are very common, they provide a lot of viewing area and generally the largest footprint to volume ratio. this style of tank is usually what is recommended for beginners due to the cheap price.

Breeder tanks[edit]

These tanks have a rectangular footprint however they are usually only a 5-10 inches tall. This provides unique habitat usuaully used for breeding shoaling fish such as Category:Corydoras, or raising plants.

Tunnel Tanks[edit]

Coming soon

Hex tanks[edit]

Coming soon

Tall tanks[edit]

Coming soon

Long tanks[edit]

Coming soon
  1. Choosing the Right Type of Fish Tank
  2. Retrieved from "https://theaquariumwiki.com/w/index.php?title=Tanks&oldid=87762"