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Old 03-11-2019, 05:40 PM
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Default Acrylic Front Glass?

I know it's not recommended to put acrylic on the top with lights due to heat and warping issues. Would it work for the front glass? I'm about to take the plunge and build a tank using PVC boards. I would like to use acrylic for the front glass to cut down on weight as I would like to have a hinged door with a single pane of glass rather than 2 sliding glass doors. Lights are LED which really don't add more than one degree of heat in my other tank.
Any thoughts?
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Old 03-11-2019, 07:24 PM
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Default Re: Acrylic Front Glass?

Acrylic warps because of the humidity differential between one side of the sheet and the other. Heat doesn't warp acrylic noticeably in our applications, though incandescent lamps can begin to melt it.

Lots of folks have a hard time believing this. Here's some proof: an acrylic top on a humid viv will curl the outer edges of the sheet upward (forming a bowl). This is because the sheet is absorbing water (from the humid bottom side) and causing that side to expand -- the bottom side of the panel becomes longer than the top side. This happens even if the sheet is fully supported by a taut screen (so this is not a matter of heat softening combined with gravity).

If overhead lighting were causing the bowing by expanding the top of the sheet, the sheet would curl the outer edges downward (forming a hill).

The acrylic sheets used on T5HO aquarium lighting that side in under the tubes to act as splash guards don't bow at all, though they encounter a lot of heat. This is because those fixtures are suspended far enough above the water that there is no humidity differential between the sides of the sheet.
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Old 03-11-2019, 10:46 PM
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Default Re: Acrylic Front Glass?

I just made a quick&cheap tank conversion for my godson and used acrylic doors as my first pass (since I already had some pieces and it was free). The acrylic wasted no time in warping (bowing inward toward the tank since the tank-side face absorbed moisture and expanded). In his case, it's a plant-only viv so the warp-induced gaps in the doors are not an immediate problem - but I'm going to need to replace the doors with glass soon.

It takes a little longer to wait for glass to be cut, and it's a bit more expensive, but I would not waste my time with acrylic. Using glass also means you can use more effective cleansers if you ever need to clean stubborn stains or deposits from the doors.

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Old 03-11-2019, 11:48 PM
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Default Re: Acrylic Front Glass?

OP - Also note it's not "a rule" that with glass fronts your only option is bypass doors. There are also glass hinges available online - you could do a single, or a pair of hinged doors. A few require drilling but most just use friction, or set screws.

Some folks here have used these glass hinges, and a few have even posted pictures of their excellent work. (Try searching?) I'm not one of them! Ha ha. I'm still just a bypass, door-track schlub. But I've got ambition, and I'm pretty handy, so one day I'm gonna take the plunge. Maybe you can beat me to it? I'd take care with rust. I'd probably drill, and go with all-plastic hardware. Others might choose differently.

And - I unreservedly join the others in steering you away from plastic fronts. It's gonna look like crap, and leak bugs & frogs, pronto. Glass is your friend, trust it.

good luck!
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Old 03-13-2019, 08:52 PM
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Default Re: Acrylic Front Glass?

Thank you all for the replies. I will stick with glass.
And thank you for the input on the hinges too. I didn't even think about the rust issues there. My plan is to have a front panel frame that the glass goes in, so the hinges can be screwed into the framework instead of directly to the glass.
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Old 03-14-2019, 01:15 AM
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Default Re: Acrylic Front Glass?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Socratic Monologue View Post
Acrylic warps because of the humidity differential between one side of the sheet and the other. Heat doesn't warp acrylic noticeably in our applications, though incandescent lamps can begin to melt it.

Lots of folks have a hard time believing this. Here's some proof: an acrylic top on a humid viv will curl the outer edges of the sheet upward (forming a bowl). This is because the sheet is absorbing water (from the humid bottom side) and causing that side to expand -- the bottom side of the panel becomes longer than the top side. This happens even if the sheet is fully supported by a taut screen (so this is not a matter of heat softening combined with gravity).

If overhead lighting were causing the bowing by expanding the top of the sheet, the sheet would curl the outer edges downward (forming a hill).

The acrylic sheets used on T5HO aquarium lighting that side in under the tubes to act as splash guards don't bow at all, though they encounter a lot of heat. This is because those fixtures are suspended far enough above the water that there is no humidity differential between the sides of the sheet.
Thanks for the concise and clear explanation. I've always known it was the humidity differential. Heck I have experienced it a couple times. But I have never been able to wrap my brain around what is actually happening when it warps. I much prefer to understand what's going on to parroting conventional wisdom.
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