Meh, not worth the extra cost in my opinion. Most demonstrations of low iron versus regular float glass put the samples on edge .... because if you looked though the panel you would be hard pressed to see a difference. Thickness of the glass does make a difference. Most 180s will use 12 mm glass, not that thick and only a marginal clarity difference. Plus, folks complain about a greenish tinge to regular glass, then run lighting with a strong blue cast LOL. I always wondered if you setup two identical reef tanks side by side, how many folks would reliably distinguish low iron versus regular. I’d take the ‘it’s a massive difference’ with a grain of salt.
I've always thought the low iron glass tanks just had a extra sparkle about them when you just looked at the tank itself.
Both my current tanks are low iron glass tanks.
BUT, they do scratch easier. I just put a 5" scratch on the front of my new ( 6 months ) 66 gallon tank.
If I ever buy another tank, I'm not sure I would spend the extra $ for low iron.
Years ago, I was corresponding with an engineer from PPG. He assured me that low iron glass has the same knoop hardness as standard glass. I think this 'low iron glass scratches easier' is a reef myth.
I had a 125 regular glass years ago that I scratched the daylights out of. It was real easy to scratch up. Young and dumb. I have 3/4" low iron glass viewing panel now and am careful. I love it.
Low iron definitely looks better, but I would strongly suggest never using a magnet scraper if you want to stay scratch-free. If you scrape by hand, you will have scratch-free glass for years.
I started using a magnet scraper with a blade that I do not leave in in tank. I did this because I was snapping off acros every time I cleaned the glass because when you scrape by hand, the angle you need requires your hand/wrist/arm to be several inches away from the glass and the acros had grown to a point where this was happening.
I clean the glass by hand in a small area before I put the magnet scraper in the tank, so as to avoid putting it on top of any small debris that could scratch the glass. It doesn't matter, because within a couple months, I had tons of scratches. And there were no anomalies on the blade. Scratches with magnet scrapers are unavoidable.
So there are a few solutions:
1) If your tank is large enough, keep corals far enough from the glass so that you can clean by hand without breaking them.
2) Don't get low iron glass - but regular glass is probably going to scratch eventually too with a magnet scraper
3) Use a magnet scraper, but know that you will inevitably end up with scratches.
Here's a final piece of advice...even though I have some scratches, my tank looks good, so you don't even notice them during casual viewing, and I am the most detail aware person on the planet. And I have seen much better looking tanks than mine that had horrible craftsmanship, and you only notice because you intentionally looked for it. The corals and fish looked incredible and that is what you see.
In other words, if your corals and fish are beautiful, you are not going to care about a random scratch or ugly silicone. Most hobbyists would be better served by studying art principles like negative space, color theory, etc. than they are by spending $10k on a tank when they could get a slightly lower quality one for $2k. I've seen plenty of people with Reef Savvy tanks that are of the highest quality, but the tank looked awful.
I doubt anyone looking at a tank says "Wow, you've got great color and growth on your corals, fish are healthy and active, and it's very impressive and I could get lost staring at all the marine diversity here in your living room....too bad you had to ruin it all with standard glass!"
It's a comparison thing to me..side by side you're going to notice it. I have had and have both now and still don't notice it once it's filled unless I'm looking for it. If the extra cost is going to keep you from buying what you want for other reasons (good price, size, etc) I wouldn't let the lack of low iron stop me.
Agree on hardness...haven't noticed anything different on cleaning. I'm very careful with any cleaning though regardless of glass. Never had acrylic so won't comment on comparisons there.
I used to say it didn't matter to me. But once I bought a low-iron tank (second hand where cost wasn't any different) I could look at both tanks side by side... it was a huge difference. The fish are brighter and the corals are WAY more colorful. I'm not sure how much easier it is to scratch... seems to be easier. But I'm sure none of us are nonchalant with our tanks anyway. Be careful and take some precautions. I will probably not ever buy another standard tank if it's for display purposes.
My 120 and 45 frag tanks are standard glass and they look good.
I had a nano with low iron glass before I retired it to the garage.
I really could not tell the difference but im old so go figure.
Get what you like and call it a day.
A tank is a tank... its how you take care of it, create rockscape and meticulously place corals to grow beautifully over time, that makes a tank gorgeous... lol... plus, low iron glass scratches easy... hahahaha! My first scratch on my reefer was like someone keying my car... Just my opinion... you asked... lol
I think the source matters for scratch resistance. I have a plethora of scratches on my 2yr old miracles low iron aquarium, and I use an acrylic rated pad to wipe by hand. My previous marineland low iron front panel had one scratch with similar care after many more years. My marineland only had one low iron panel and you can tell the difference between the two pretty easily.
I agree that the whole scratching issue is a myth. Iron is an impurity in regular glass. It is not an additive and it does nothing to add any strength or hardness to the glass. Now, some glass companies might end up with a softer surface on their glass due to their manufacturing processes, but according to the several glass manufacturers I work with, there is nothing inherent in low-iron glass to cause this.
I’ve been thinking of having a 390 built and was wondering the same thing. As always, there’s contradicting stories. I would like to go low iron front glass for clarity, but the rumors of ease of scratching in the low iron glass has me concerned, especially with urchins and coralline algae growth. Now I would never do acrylic in a reef, but I think I’d rather have green tinted glass than scratches all over, if that’s my choice of trade-offs.