How To Clean An Acrylic Aquarium-5 Things To Know

I am going to guess that 85%-95% of people who have an aquarium, purchased a glass one. Up until a few months ago, I didn’t even know that they had tanks made of acrylic. So I learned a little something new, and now I am here to tell you about acrylic aquariums.

How to Clean an Acrylic Aquarium? The acrylic aquariums are more lightweight, not as easy to break, but more easily scratched. The main thing to remember, gentle cleaning! You don’t want to leave scratches or turn the acrylic yellow.

We are going to cover a lot of different information. A lot of the information in this article may be repetitive, but it is very important to repeat certain things. We want to make sure you fully understand the care/maintenance and cleaning of the acrylic aquarium. 

One of the biggest differences between glass and acrylic aquariums; the style. Glass aquariums are almost always rectangular in shape. But acrylic can be manipulated. So you can have a unique aquarium to house your fish. 

Besides being gentle when cleaning your acrylic aquarium, I will give you the top 5 things you need to know/do to clean your tank. I will also be discussing acrylic tanks in more detail, allowing you to make an informed decision and confident purchase.

What Is An Acrylic Aquarium

Before we get into how to clean an acrylic aquarium, and other things you need to know. I thought it best if I explained a little bit about the acrylic aquarium first.

As opposed to glass, your acrylic aquarium will be able to keep a consistent temperature, because it is more insulated than glass. This will make it easier, depending on the type of fish you keep in your tank and their preferred temperature. You may not need a heater. 

Acrylic tanks are going to be more expensive than your glass tanks and a lot easier to scratch; whether it is caused by teeth, claws, or cleaning. But, it is easier to repair if it gets scratched, which is also a bonus. Be a little more careful when placing your substrate and/or rocks because of the scratch factor. 

If you are wanting to modify or customize your tank, beyond the shape you choose, you can do so with acrylic. Glass tanks would cost you getting special tools to make modifications or to customize because of how careful you have to be to cut glass.

Common Aquarium Shapes

Acrylic Aquariums can be found in a hexagon, pentagon, round spheres, columns, and many other shapes.

This gives your aquarium uniqueness. If you were to go to 10 houses that had aquariums, my guess would be; they would all be rectangular glass tanks. Some acrylic tanks even have rounded corners which add to the appeal and give a unique look to your tank. 

If you are going to purchase an acrylic tank, do not place it where the sunlight will hit it, and make sure the lighting you use doesn’t have UV rays. The UV rays cause the acrylic to turn a yellow color, overtime. You will also want to add a little extra support for your acrylic tank. Yes, it is stronger than glass but it tends to bow a little under the pressure of the water. Most acrylic tanks will come encased in a support stand and that solves the issue very nicely.

Maintaining An Acrylic Aquarium-The Properly Care

If you properly care for your acrylic tank, it can last you decades. Be careful when cleaning, fixing scratches, and good stabilization are key to a long lasting acrylic tank.

Here is a short list of what to do and what not to do with your acrylic tank. Then, in the next section, I will go into more detail

  • No harsh cleaners; ammonia, alcohol, or abrasives
  • Do not expose your acrylic tank to any chemicals; turpentine, varnish, paint, etc
  • Use a soft cloth, preferably microfiber, only
  • Bleach can be used, ½ gallon per 20 gallons of water to sterilize
  • No paper towels, course pads, or sponges
  • Use only products made especially for acrylic tanks; or plain water/cloth

Top 4 Things You Need To Know; General Tank Care

Going into much more detail on the above listed do’s and don’ts , here are the top 4 most important things you need to know about cleaning and maintaining your acrylic aquarium. 

There is really no set schedule as to when to clean your tank. It is all going to depend on tank size, the number of fish, and how much beneficial bacteria/live plants you have. I would say, once a week for 20 to 30-gallon tanks and under, anything 40 gallons and over you can probably do every 3 to 4 weeks.

But, that is only my opinion and I am no aquaria expert. You can discuss this with the pet store associates when you purchase all of your items. There are also recommendations on the back of most of the products you will need to purchase.

01. You want to get rid of any sand or debris
One tiny piece of sand or gravel between your cloth and your acrylic can be devastating. Make sure you carefully wipe the inside of your tank with extra soft cloth.
02. Use products that are made for acrylic
Use a soft cotton or microfiber cloth and a plastic scraper. There are a lot of products on the market made especially for acrylic tanks. Test any new product on a small spot first. To ensure there are no ill effects. 
03. Easy when scrubbing
If you come across a tough spot on your aquarium DO NOT scrub. Instead, try a plastic scraper to remove the tough spot. You want to always place the scraper against the wall of the tank, otherwise, you risk scratching the acrylic.
04. Buffing out scratches
It is almost inevitable that your acrylic tank is going to end up getting a few scratches. But don’t worry! Read the directions extra carefully, on the product you choose, to buff out your scratch. Be sure to rinse your tank extremely well before you put your fish back into the tank. Any chemicals in the buffing solution will kill your fish immediately.

Top 5 Things To Know, When Cleaning Your Acrylic Tank

Besides being made of different materials, aquariums all need cleaned and can be cleaned in the exact same way. You just have to be more careful with your acrylic aquarium so that it doesn’t get scratched too badly. If you do scratch it, as stated above, then you will have an extra step to cleaning; buffing out the scratch.

01)- You will need water, plastic polish, and a soft cloth (microfiber). A lot of fish tank owners don’t realize how sensitive the acrylic tanks are. They try to clean them the same ways as a glass tank and they end up with fogginess, yellowing, and scratches. Chemicals will cause damage to the surface of the tank.

Use a squirt bottle full of water and your soft cloth to wipe all sides of your Tank. Wipe easily, not too much pressure. Turn the water off! Some say to Remove the fish from the tank, others say that moving them causes more Stress than cleaning around them. You want your tank water to be as calm As possible, as to not cause debris or sand to get between the cleaning Tools and tank.

If you are going to change your substrate, though you do not need to, USE A SCOOP! This helps keep the substrate, debris, and other particles from Floating around and getting between the cleaning and acrylic. Means no scratches. If you just pick up the tank and dump the substrate You are going to scratch your tank, terribly.

02)- You still want to vacuum your gravel, just like you would if you had a glass aquarium. The vacuums are made to remove dirt, debris, and other particles that get stuck to your substrate. Things that you may not even see. Make sure to vacuum slowly, as not to stir up any debris that could potentially cause scratching.

03)- Something you probably do not know, I had no idea, use magnets! Place one magnet on the outside of the tank, and one on the inside of the tank. This is called a Mag-Float and it will help to clean your glass without you actually touching the surface, and without causing any scratches.


It is perfect to clean the algae and other things that may be stuck to the aquarium. Make sure you clean the tank with your microfiber tank first. This method, the Mag-Float, is a great final acrylic wipe down.

04)- You can actually use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on your acrylic aquarium, and it is not going to cause any harm whatsoever. They are easy to use and will not leave behind any residue or scratches. This helps remove algae and waste, giving our tank a cleaner look. There are no abrasives or chemicals in the Magic Eraser. 

05)- Fixing Scratches; as long as they are not too deep, you can fix any scratch that your acrylic aquarium happens to endure. You need to purchase an acrylic buffer and repair kit. It is very simple, just follow the directions. Some of the repair kids that you can purchase, you can use while the water is running and while our fish are still in the tank.

06)- BONUS: Read everything very very carefully. Some of the products that say they are exclusively for acrylic tanks, including buffering kits, actually contain chemicals that can harm or kill your fish. If you choose to use them, you need to completely empty your tank and make sure it is thoroughly rinsed before putting anything, especially your fish, back in the tank. 


Acrylic aquariums are a lot like glass aquariums. They come in similar gallon sizes, can hold the same fish, substrate, decorations, and more. Acrylic is stronger but will need a little extra stabilization. They are also going to cost a little bit more. A 20-30 gallon glass tank will run anywhere from about $15 to $30 dollars. The acrylic aquarium of the same gallon size is going to cost you anywhere from $110 to $130.

Yes, that is a pretty big difference, but it can be well worth the money. Stronger, light-weight, not as easily broken as a glass tank. How can you go wrong??

If you take care of your acrylic aquarium properly, it should last you decades. You just need to do complete research on the products you buy, even if they say, “for acrylic tanks only”. Some products may still have chemicals that could harm or even kill your fish. You can also repair most scratches that appear on your acrylic tank, which is inevitable.

So, acrylic tanks can be just as beautiful and an even bigger eye catcher than a glass tank. This is because acrylic is shapeable. So you have many more shape options to choose from with acrylic aquariums.  Octagon, pentagon, hexagon, spherical, rectangular, and many more. If you can dream it, someone may be able to build it. 

If you want strong, unique, long-lasting, and eye-catching then you need to definitely choose an acrylic aquarium. They are well worth the money, even with the potential for scratches. You can use all of the same decorations, substrates, filtration systems, and heaters that you can use in a glass tank. Just remember to be very careful of UV lighting or lighting that has any kind of UV rays.

Also remember, do not put your acrylic tank where the direct sunlight can hit the acrylic. It will turn the tank a yellowish color over time.

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I'm passionate about fish pets and love sharing everything I learn about them.

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