Bow Front Vs Rectangular Aquarium: Which One to Choose?

The main difference between bow front and rectangular aquariums is the shape of the front panel. Bow front aquariums have a curved front panel, while rectangular aquariums have a straight front panel.

Bow-front aquariums are known for their elegance and unique curvature, which can enhance the viewing experience and create a focal point in any room. Also, it offers more space for your fish and can make use of the available space in your room as it comes in different shapes.

Additionally, the curved glass provides a wider viewing angle, allowing for better visibility and a more immersive experience. On the other hand, rectangular aquariums offer a more traditional look. They are easier to clean and maintain due to their straight sides.

Ultimately, the decision between bow-front and rectangular aquariums comes down to personal taste, space availability, and the specific needs of the fish and plants that will inhabit the tank.

Rectangular and bow front aquarium

Bow Front Vs Rectangular Aquarium [Differences At A Glance]

CriteriaBow Front AquariumRectangular Aquarium
ShapeCurved front panel creating a bow-like appearanceStraight, traditional rectangular shape
AestheticsElegant and visually appealing due to the curved frontSimple and classic look
Space EfficiencyMay offer a slightly more usable swimming area due to the convex curved frontProvides a more even distribution of swimming space
Viewing ExperienceProvides a unique viewing angle, enhancing the display of aquatic lifeOffers a straightforward viewing experience
Size OptionsAvailable in various sizes, but may have limited depth compared to rectangular tanksAvailable in a wide range of sizes and dimensions
Price RangeTends to be slightly more expensive due to the specialized designGenerally more affordable
MaintenanceMay require slightly more effort to clean the curved frontEasier to clean and maintain
Aquascaping OptionsMay limit some aquascaping possibilities due to the curved shapeProvides more freedom for aquascaping and decoration
Compatibility with FishSuitable for most fish, but some species may prefer straight lines for movementSuitable for all types of fish
Placement FlexibilityFits well in corners or against walls, optimizing space usageFits well in any setting, but may take up more floor space

Different Sizes And Shapes Available For Each Type

When it comes to choosing an aquarium for your home or office, you have two main options: bow front and rectangular. Each type has its own unique features and advantages. Let’s take a closer look at the different sizes and shapes available for each type.

Bow Front Aquarium

Sizes: Bow front aquariums come in a range of sizes, from smaller compact versions perfect for desktops or countertops to larger and more spacious options suitable for bigger rooms. Below are the most popular bow-front aquarium sizes.

Aquarium Size (Gallons)Dimensions (Inches)Water Capacity (Pounds)
1620 x 10 x 19.5133.4
2624 x 15 x 21.5221.8
3630 x 15 x 21.5319.1
4636 x 16 x 20.2407.6
7248 x 18 x 23.6642.9
9048.5 x 18.5 x 25.3750.6

Among them, I found 36 gallons bow-front aquariums are more common, and prevalent in the fishkeeping community.

90 gallon corner bow front aquarium
90-gallon corner bow front aquarium

Shapes: While the front panel is always curved, bow front aquariums can have different shapes at the back. Some have a gentle curve on the back panel to match the front, while others have a rectangular shape at the back for easy placement against a wall. Below are the most common bow-front shapes available:

  • Standard Bow Front
  • Cube Bow Front
  • Corner Bow Front
  • Half Cylinder Bow Front
  • Inverted Bow Front

I have a separate article on the bow front aquarium sizes and the different shapes it comes in. I invite you to read that article for more information.

Gallon capacity: Bow-front aquariums can hold different amounts of water, usually starting from 16 gallons and going up to 180 gallons or more. This variety allows you to choose the right size based on your space limitations and desired fish population.

Rectangular Aquariums

Rectangular aquariums, as the name suggests, have a traditional rectangular shape with straight glass panels. They provide a classic and timeless look that’s easy to set up and manage. Let’s explore the available sizes and shapes for rectangular aquariums:

A beautiful rectangular aquarium with sand substrate and plants
A beautiful rectangular aquarium with sand substrate and plants

Sizes: Rectangular aquariums come in a wide range of sizes, accommodating different needs and spaces. Whether you’re looking for a small tank for a few fish or a large one for a diverse aquatic community, you can find a suitable size.

Aquarium Size (Gallons)Dimensions (Inches)Water Capacity (Pounds)
1020 x 10 x 1283.4
2024 x 12 x 16166.8
2930 x 12 x 18242.6
4036 x 18 x 16333.6
5548 x 13 x 21459.7
7548 x 18 x 21624.6
9048 x 18 x 24749.4
12048 x 24 x 24999.6
15072 x 18 x 271249.5
18072 x 24 x 251499.4

Shapes: As the most common and versatile aquarium type, rectangular tanks maintain their shape consistently throughout. This makes them easier to fit into various locations, including built-in spaces or custom stands.

As you can see bow-front comes in different shapes that allow optimizing the available space in a room like corners or walls. On the contrary, rectangular tanks usually take up more floor space.

Gallon capacity: The gallon capacity of rectangular aquariums varies greatly, starting from as small as 5 gallons and going up to several hundred gallons. This versatility allows you to choose the right size depending on the number and type of fish you plan to keep.

Visibility And Viewing Angles In Bow Front Vs Rectangular Aquariums

When it comes to choosing the perfect aquarium, there are various factors to consider. One important aspect is the visibility and viewing angles that different aquarium shapes offer. Let’s dive deeper into the comparison between bow front and rectangular aquariums.

A beautiful bow front fish tank
A beautiful bow-front fish tank

Bow Front Aquariums:

  • Wide viewing angles: Bow front aquariums provide a wider range of viewing angles compared to rectangular ones. This means that you can enjoy the beauty of your underwater world from different perspectives, enhancing the overall aquarium experience.
  • Visibility: The curved front panel of bow-front aquariums provides an enhanced panoramic view of the underwater environment. However, the curvature of the glass creates distortions, not ideal for taking photographs.

Rectangular Aquariums:

  • Seamless viewing: While rectangular aquariums may not offer the same curved panoramic view as bow-front aquariums, they provide a clear, unobstructed view straight into the tank. This allows for an uninterrupted experience and makes it easier to observe specific areas or fish behaviors.
  • Optimal lighting: The straight glass panels of rectangular aquariums allow for better light penetration. This means that the lighting in the tank can properly illuminate the entire space, ensuring that your aquatic plants and fish receive the necessary light for growth and visibility.

Aquascaping Options For Bow Front Vs Rectangular Aquariums

Aquascaping is the art of creating visually stunning underwater landscapes in aquariums. Whether you have a bow front or a rectangular aquarium, there are various options available to design the perfect aquascape.

In this section, I will discuss the key considerations and possibilities for aquascaping in both types of aquariums.

Aquascaping in a 46 gallon bow front aquarium
Aquascaping in a 46-gallon bow-front aquarium

Key Considerations For Bow Front Aquariums

  • Unique perspective: Aquascaping in a Bow Front Aquarium can be both a creative challenge and an opportunity to create a stunning underwater landscape. The curved front panel adds a unique dimension to the design, allowing for interesting focal points and depth in the layout.
  • Depth perception: The curved shape creates natural-looking slopes and contours, which can be used to mimic hills and valleys. This can be particularly appealing when creating an environment that resembles a hilly or mountainous aquatic habitat.
  • Limited Options: It’s essential to consider that the curved surface may limit some aquascaping possibilities. For instance, arranging large rocks or driftwood can be a bit tricky, as they need to conform to the curvature of the tank. Planting along the edges might also require some creativity to maintain a balanced look.
Stunning aquascape created in a rectangular aquarium
Stunning aquascape created in a rectangular aquarium

Key Considerations For Rectangular Aquariums

  • More Freedom: In contrast, a Rectangular Aquarium offers more freedom when it comes to aquascaping options. The straight and flat surfaces make it easier to arrange rocks, driftwood, and plants, providing a broader canvas for creativity.
  • Foreground, midground, and background: In a rectangular aquarium, it is easier to create defined zones or layers within the aquascape. You can create distinct sections or territories within the tank, such as a lushly planted area, a sandy substrate region, or a rocky cave for fish to explore.
  • Scaping with lines: The straight lines of a rectangular aquarium can be utilized to create visually pleasing lines in your aquascape. Arranging rocks or driftwood in diagonals or creating pathways with plants can guide the viewer’s eye around the aquarium.
  • Symmetry or minimalism: The rectangular shape allows for more precise layout planning and symmetrical designs, which is preferred by many aquascapers aiming for a clean and organized look. It’s also easier to install background scenes or 3D backgrounds in rectangular tanks, adding depth and enhancing the overall aesthetics.

Ease Of Maintenance For Bow Front Vs Rectangular Aquariums

Both bow front and rectangular aquariums have their own unique features that affect how easy they are to maintain. Let’s take a closer look at the maintenance requirements of each type.

Bow Front Aquariums:

The curved front glass adds an aesthetic appeal to the bow front aquarium, but it also affects the cleaning process. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Cleaning the curved glass can be a bit challenging, as it requires reaching into the curved edges to remove algae or debris.
  • The uneven shape of the bow front aquarium makes it relatively more difficult to use a magnetic algae scraper effectively.
  • However, modern advancements in cleaning tools and technologies have made it easier to maintain bow-front aquariums. Algae scrapers designed specifically for curved glass are available in the market.
Top view of a bow front aquarium
Top view of a bow-front aquarium

Rectangular Aquariums:

Rectangular aquariums are known for their simplicity in design, which contributes to their ease of maintenance. Consider the following points:

  • The flat front glass makes it easier to clean as there are no curved edges to reach into.
  • The rectangular shape ensures optimal water flow, allowing filters to work more efficiently without any dead zones.
  • The unrestricted viewing angles make it easier to spot and clean any dirt or buildup.
  • Magnetic algae scrapers can be used more effectively on flat glass walls, simplifying the algae removal process.

Cost And Affordability Of Bow Front Vs Rectangular Aquariums

Both bow-front and rectangular aquariums come with different price tags. Let’s dive in and explore the cost comparisons between these two options:

Bow Front Aquariums:

  • Generally, bow-front aquariums are slightly more expensive than their rectangular counterparts due to the complexity of manufacturing the curved glass.
  • The cost of a bow-front aquarium can vary depending on the size and brand. Smaller bow-front aquariums typically start around $100, while larger ones can range from $200 to $500 or more.
  • Specialized accessories including lighting, stand, hood, etc. can make it costlier than the rectangular counterpart.
36-gallon bow-front aquarium with stand

Rectangular Aquariums:

  • Rectangular aquariums are generally more affordable compared to bow-front aquariums. The simplicity of their shape allows for easier manufacturing, resulting in lower production costs.
  • The cost of a rectangular aquarium will depend on the size and brand. Smaller rectangular aquariums can start as low as $50, while larger ones can range from $100 to $300 or more, depending on the specifications.
A nice aquarium set up

Compatibility With Different Fish Species In Each Type

The curved front panel of a bow-front aquarium offers more swimming space for fish, allowing them to move around freely and explore their environment. This can be particularly beneficial for active and larger fish species.

However, some fish species may prefer straight lines for movement. The curvature of the tank can limit the swimming space for fish that enjoy long, uninterrupted stretches.

So, the rectangular tank is suitable for all fish species, however, the bow-front tank may not be perfect for certain fish species.

It is essential to consider the specific fish species you plan to keep and ensure they are compatible with the space and water conditions provided by a bow front tank.

Fish tank with fish

Frequently Asked Questions For Bow Front Vs Rectangular Aquarium

What Is A Bow Front Aquarium And How Is It Different From A Rectangular Aquarium?

A bow-front aquarium has a curved front panel that provides a panoramic view, while a rectangular aquarium has straight edges. The curved design of a bow-front aquarium can enhance the aesthetic appeal and create a more engaging visual experience for viewers.

Which Type Of Aquarium Is More Suitable For Beginners?

For beginners, a rectangular aquarium is often the best choice. It is easier to set up and maintain, and it provides a more straightforward environment for fish. The straight edges also make it easier to clean and decorate. However, bow-front and rectangular aquariums can be suitable for beginners if proper research is done.

Are Rectangular Aquariums Better For Fish?

Both types are suitable for fish depending on how well you maintain your tank. Bow-front offers more space to swim for fishes, but the rectangular shape allows fish to move more freely.


Choosing between a bow front and a rectangular aquarium ultimately depends on your personal preferences and needs. The bow-front aquarium offers a visually appealing curved front that adds depth and creates a unique focal point in any room. It also provides a wider viewing angle, allowing for better visibility of your aquatic pets.

On the other hand, the rectangular aquarium offers a more traditional design with straight lines, making it easier to fit into most spaces and providing a larger surface area for decorations and fish. It also allows for better water circulation and is typically more cost-effective.

Consider factors such as space availability, desired aesthetic, and fish compatibility when making your decision. Ultimately, both options can provide a beautiful and enjoyable home for your aquatic friends.

Sujit Modak

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