Different Types of Aquariums and How to Choose One
Aquariums come in a few different types of systems, please see below for descriptions on each one.
Standard Sized Glass Aquariums
If I were to guess I would say that about 90% of the aquariums out there are the standard glass aquariums. You can see from the stand tank size chart page that there are few different brands but they are all generally the same size and I believe that they are all actually one huge company now. If you go into any local fish or pet store or sign onto any online pet store you will generally find a lot of these standard sized aquariums for sale. There are some pros and cons to this type of aquarium so I wanted to just run through a few of these:
These aquariums (i.e. AGA, Aqueon, Oceanic, etc...) are cranked out by the thousands each day and so you can get a great "economy of scale" factor - some of the stores even have a "dollar per gallon" sale at a certain time of the year so you can imagine what kind of deal you can get for these standard tank sizes.2. Quality
As I mentioned these companies have been around for a long time building aquariums and they obviously have their process down. They have support frames and have a good quality control program with the number of aquariums being manufactured so buying one of these is a sure bet.3. Ease of Replacement
With the standard size of all of these aquariums if you ever had anything happen to your current tank it will help that you have picked a standard-sized aquarium. If (God forbid) a rock falls and cracks your tank or something springs a leak it's comforting to know that there is a good chance someone has an extra tank sitting in their basement or that your local store will have these standard sizes in stock.
Cons1. No Customization
The main downfall to these fish tanks is that the companies are set up to make the same set of tanks every time - you can't typically get anything customized on it like a built-in overflow, a frameless option, or any adjustment on the glass size - if you want to customize it at all you are on your own!
Acrylic Aquariums are not as prolific as glass aquariums but there are a good number of them around. Acrylic certainly has some different characteristics than glass and here are some pros and cons when considering an acrylic aquarium over a glass aquarium:
Acrylic aquariums are pretty light compared to glass aquariums. Pretty nice if you are setting up a pretty large tank and don't have an army of guys with you to help load the aquarium onto the stand or up the stairs. Keep in mind though that this only matters while it's empty. Water weigh 8 pounds+ per gallon so the permanent location HAS to be strong enough to support a large amount of weight regardless of what the aquarium is made of2. Appearance
This is purely subjective of course but a lot of feedback received from acrylic aquarium owners is that the appearance is better than the glass fish tanks - acrylic can be combined in joints "welded" together rather than having to use caulk, and acrylic has the ability to be bent easier than glass. So if you are looking for an aquarium with "smooth" or "rounded" joints - you can probably find what you are looking for in an acrylic aquarium.3. Maintainability
Not quite sure if "maintainability" is a word or not but what I am getting at is the fact that acrylic can be "maintained" better than glass. It is true that acrylic CAN be scratched easier than glass, but unlike glass, you can "buff" out acrylic at home and make it look new rather than having to live with the scratches forever. It takes a LOT of elbow grease but it is possible!
Acrylic tanks are not outrageously priced, especially the more common sizes, but then again, you are never going to see a dollar a gallon for acylic tanks.2. Scratching
I did mention in the "pros" above that you can buff out most scratches in in acrylic aquarium but one "con" of acryclic is that it does scratch more easily than glass. One good piece of news is that a lot of scratches that you can see while your fish tank is empty tend to "disappear" when you fill it with water.