Glass or acrylic? The kind of material to be used is the first big decision to make when selecting a terrarium. While these two building materials seem similar at first glance, each has has a distinct set of pros and cons. Depending on the situation, either material could be the correct choice.
Unlike glass, acrylic is a type of plastic polymer. Acrylic weighs less than glass. This means a terrarium made out of acrylic will weigh less than a glass aquarium of the same size. If you plan on keeping large animals, and need a large terrarium, this trait can be critical. Additionally, acrylic insulates temperature better than glass. This means that an acrylic terrarium will cost less to heat, which could come into play with tropical species. Last, but not least, acrylic can resist certain types of damage, like cracking, chipping and shattering.
Glass is the classic material for terrariums. Most pet shops will stock glass tanks, in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. These tanks tend to cost less than acrylic tanks. This means more money to spend on terrarium accessories and the critters inside them. Lastly, glass strongly resists cracking; very few things can scratch a glass terrarium.
Acrylic's not perfect. Sand, cleaning tools and even the animals themselves can create ugly scratches on acrylic. Acrylic requires special cleaning tools in order to clean the terrarium without damage it. Additionally, acrylic can melt when exposed to heat, though most pet shop equipment, like terrarium heaters, is rated for safety with acrylic. As a final drawback, acrylic terrariums usually cost more than comparable glass terrariums.
Glass has drawbacks too. For one, glass tanks cannot have the same curved and rounded sides and edges found in acrylic aquariums. Since glass aquariums have distinct panes, while acrylic tanks are a single, solvent-welded piece, glass terrariums have a slightly higher risk of leaking if there's a significant amount of water in the terrarium. Last, certain terrarium setups require drilling through the tank. Drilling acrylic is much easier than drilling glass. Glass can crack or shatter if drilled incorrectly.