Stock tanks make excellent DIY pools, but you can’t just fill the thing with water, throw in a chlorine floater, and start swimming.
While this might work in the short term, all pools need circulation and filtration in order to maintain the water all season. This helps with everything from distributing chemicals, deterring insects, and removing dirt and debris.
Stock tank pools are no exception, so we’ll take you through the exact steps to convert your tank into a real swimming pool, complete with its own pump and filter system.
What You Need Before Starting
Like every DIY project, you’ll need a few things on hand to ensure everything goes smoothly:
- Stock tank (duh!). Most farm supply or feed stores sell large enough stock tanks. Anything from 6-feet to 10-feet will work, costing between $250 to $750 bought new. Used will be considerably cheaper.
- Water source. A garden hose connected to a municipal water source is perfectly fine for filling a pool, especially since you’re going to sanitize it anyway. Otherwise, consider getting your water trucked in.
- Pump filter. Unlike inground pool setups, the pump and filter are incorporated into a single unit. This should also come with most of the fittings you need to install. Intex filters are a popular choice for these pools, especially their sand filters.
- Plunger valves (recommended). Not strictly necessary but they do allow you to restrict water flow to the filter pump so you can change the filter or carry out maintenance. Grab two of these if you can.
- Drill with hole attachment. A hand/power drill with a hole attachment is necessary to cut the holes for the inlet and outlet fittings, which you’ll find included with the pump filter kit.
- Safety gear. Since you’ll be drilling holes into metal, you’ll want to be wearing some safety goggles, a long-sleeve shirt, and ideally even some gloves if you have them. Safety first!
- Metal file (optional). A metal file can be used to smooth the edges of the holes after drilling. This isn’t always necessary but some cuts can be a little jagged or leave behind some metal shavings.
- Sealant (optional). Caulking is often used to plug the gap between a pool’s coping and deck, but it can also be used in this case to close any gaps between the fittings in the event of leakages.
- Pool chemicals. We won’t get into the chemistry here but you will need some basics, including a water testing kit, sanitizer (chlorine), pH control (soda ash/baking soda, muriatic acid), and stabilizer (cyanuric acid).
Note: You may also want to consider other optional extras, customizations, and stock tank pool ideas, such as painting the pool, adding features like pool lights or water features, and installing a heater.
DIY Stock Tank Pool (Step-by-Step)
Below are the individual steps for converting an ordinary stock tank into a fully-functioning stock tank pool:
Step 1: Place the Tank on Level Ground
Stock tank pools need to be placed on level ground in order to maintain the correct water level and ensure your filter system runs smoothly.
If you’re lucky enough to have a perfectly flat surface in your yard, this part will be easy. Otherwise, you may need to do some digging to redistribute the soil and level off the ground.
Concrete slabs or pavers are ideal to use as the base for your pool. You can also just place it on flat soil, though it’s a good idea to lay a bed of sand first in order to prevent direct contact with rocks and other potentially sharp objects.
After placing the tank, use a 2×4 and a spirit level to double-check you’re on even ground. It’s important to do this now because it will be nearly impossible to move once it’s filled with water.
Step 2: Drill the Inlet and Outlet Holes
With your stock tank in place, you’ll need to drill two holes on the side of the tank to accommodate the pump filter plumbing — which means bringing out your hand drill, 2.5-inch hole saw attachment and safety gear.
The first hole is going to be your inlet (also called a return jet), which will push water back to the pool once it’s passed through the filter. This hole needs to be drilled near the top of the pool, just below the water surface.
The second hole is going to be your outlet (also called the strainer), which will pull water out of your pool and force it through the filter. This hole should be drilled near the bottom of the pool and slightly further along the edge to improve circulation.
Before drilling any holes, be sure to hold up the fittings to make sure they aren’t obstructed by any lips or ridges on the side of your stock tank. Both fittings should be able to rest flush once screwed in. To be safe, you can also use the rubber gasket inside the fittings to outline each hole with a pencil.
Finally, with both holes drilled, it’s a good idea to use a metal file to smooth the edges and remove any sharp metal shavings.
Step 3: Install the Pump Filter Fittings
Next, take the inlet and outlet fittings from your pump filter kit.
Starting with the inlet fitting, feed it through the upper hole with the gasket on the inside and the thread on the outside of the pool. The bleeder valve port (a small hole on the thread side) should also be facing up.
Next, to secure the fitting, take a locknut/collar and thread it on. This should be hand tight in order to prevent any leakages, but not too tight or you might end up cracking the fittings. It’s only plastic, after all.
Go through the same process for the outlet fitting but this time it should go through the lower hole.
With both secured, take your plunger valves (if you decided on having them), and secure one to each of the fittings. Again, make sure the included rubber gasket is in place before screwing them in.
Typically, the higher plunger valve will face vertically, and the lower plunger valve can either be vertical or horizontal depending on the distance to the ground and the position of the pump. Both will work.
Step 4: Connect Your Pump Filter
This part should be fairly straightforward as you’re just following the plumbing instructions provided by your particular pump filter.
First, make sure you have your pump filter unpacked and place it close by to the inlet and outlet fittings. These hoses typically aren’t very long, so you won’t have much wiggle room.
Now simply connect the two pump hoses to the plunger valves. If you chose not to use plunger valves, you can connect them directly to the fittings.
The upper hose (inlet) needs to screw directly into the pump, which is usually the lowest port on your pump filter. The lower hose (outlet) needs to screw directly into the filter.
Before securing the hoses to the pump filter, make sure the provided o-rings are in place to prevent leaking. These rubber rings can easily fall out or dislodge if you’re not paying attention.
Step 5: Fill Your Pool (Check for Leaks)
Important: Painting and other customizations should be done before executing this step. Once it’s filled with water, most customizations will be harder (if not impossible) to make without having to drain all the water.
This is the fun part; it’s time to grab your trusty garden hose and start filling your new stock tank pool with water.
As the pool fills up, you need to keep an eye out for any leaks. Check both the inlet and outlet fittings, including the connections for the plunger valves, the pump hoses, and the pump filter itself.
If you do spot a leak, immediately stop adding water and drain the pool until it falls below the leak point.
First, ensure all fittings and connections have their rubber gaskets/o-rings in place and are properly tightened. Most leakages can be fixed through simple adjustments to these components.
If the leaking persists, dry the area and apply some sealant (caulking) to both sides of the fitting in order to close any gaps. You can also wrap the fitting threads with plumbers tape as an extra measure, though this usually isn’t necessary.
No leaks? You’re good to go. Keep filling ‘er up!
That’s It, All Done!
All that’s left to do now is flip the switch on your pump filter setup and watch your stock tank swimming pool come to life.
Remember: While the filtration system will help circulate and rid the water of debris, it’s important to brush up on your pool chemistry in order to keep the water balanced and sanitized.
In the meantime, enjoy your new DIY stock tank pool!