Have you seen the craze on social media?
People are taking regular old stock tanks and turning them into backyard pools. Not only that, the stock tank setup allows them to do it very quickly and affordably.
If you’re thinking of setting one up for you or your family, this article will cover everything you need to know before taking the plunge.
What Is a Stock Tank Pool?
A stock tank is a round, steel tub traditionally used to provide drinking water to livestock, including horses, pigs, cows, sheep, and other cattle.
It turns out they also have the ideal shape and structure to be converted into a backyard stock tank pool, and they even offer a few unique benefits over traditional inground and above-ground pools.
Depending on the region, they also go by other names like “trough tank pools”, “metal trough pools”, “feed trough pools”, and even “tin pools”.
They come in many different sizes and two materials; metal (galvanized steel) and plastic (polyethylene). The metal variants are the most popular for DIY swimming pools, but either can be used.
Note: “Galvanized” means they’re coated with a protective layer of zinc to prevent corrosion/rust. This is why you’ll also often see them referred to as “galvanized stock tank pools”.
Why You Should Get a Stank Tank Pool
Let’s start with the pros:
They’re Relatively Inexpensive
Backyard pools can cost anywhere from $50 for a dinky little inflatable pool to upwards of $50,000 for a large, concrete inground pool.
Of course, you’ll likely only get a few weeks out of a cheap inflatable pool whereas a well-built inground pool is going to last decades. I mean, you get what you pay for, right?
Well, stock tank pools might just be the exception.
Depending on the size and material, you’re looking at anywhere between $250 and $750 for a stock tank (bought new), and between $100 and $300 for equipment, chemicals, fill water, and a few finishing touches.
While it might not have the size, shape, and overall aesthetic of an inground pool, it certainly punches above its weight in terms of durability and longevity, which brings us to the next point…
They Can Last Many Seasons
Stock tanks are designed to be outside, to withstand the elements, and hold up against big, heavy livestock.
In other words, they’re built to last.
This is what makes them ideal candidates for a pool conversion, and while they can undergo some minor structural changes throughout this process, most stock tank pools will last you at least several years.
How many, exactly? Well, if properly maintained, it’s not uncommon for stock tank pools to last upwards of 10 years.
They’re Easy to Maintain
Like any pool, a stock tank pool needs to be maintained if you want to keep certain strains of algae and types of insects away.
The water still needs to be chemically treated and balanced, the walls need to be scrubbed and cleaned, and the equipment needs to be primed and configured to keep the whole system running.
Fortunately, maintaining a stock tank pool is significantly easier than maintaining a traditional swimming pool for several reasons:
- They hold less water
- They require fewer chemicals
- They’re easier to scrub/vacuum (simple shape)
- They have less surface area to clean
- They require lower-powered equipment
They’re Extremely Versatile
If you love getting stuck into DIY projects, few will whet your appetite like building your own swimming pool.
Stock tanks already give the main structure of your pool, and while you could just fill it with water and call it a day, there are so many ways to customize it and make it your own.
They can be painted, both on the inside and outside, though painting the inside requires a very particular type of epoxy paint to deal with the constant exposure to water and pool chemicals.
They can be equipped with various water features to add a significant visual and audible boost to your pool, such as a waterfall, fountain, or rain curtain.
They can also be integrated into the landscape to create a semi inground or even the illusion of an inground pool, particularly using wooden decking with a stock tank-shaped cutout to house the pool.
They’re Easy to Move
How can a giant metal tub be easy to move?
Surprisingly, as sturdy and durable as stock tanks are, they’re certainly not as heavy as they appear (assuming they’re not filled with water, obviously).
In fact, they’re light enough that it only takes one person to lift an average-size stock tank onto its side, at which point it can be rolled and transported just about anywhere that doesn’t take you through a narrow doorframe.
Considering their small size and water capacity, even having to drain a stock tank pool in order to relocate it is less of an issue compared to most above-ground pools.
Why You Should NOT Get a Stank Tank Pool
Now the cons:
They’re Limited in Shape and Size
Most stock tanks you come across will be circular in shape, though you can also find some square or oval-shaped tanks.
Realistically, though, the circular variants are the most aesthetically pleasing, and, as a result, the most commonly used for pool conversion — which really takes the fun out of choosing, doesn’t it?
With stock tanks ranging from 2 feet to 10 feet in diameter, you do have a bit more agency around size. Even then, you’re probably going to want one between 6 and 10 feet if you plan on sharing it with anyone else.
They’re Not Very Deep
Above-ground pools are rarely considered “deep”, and for all their differences, stock tank pools share the same drawback.
In fact, the majority of stock tanks on the market are 24 inches deep, which is only about knee height for the average person. If you want something deeper, “bottomless stock tanks” offer a bit more flexibility.
These variants come in up to 44 inches, which is about waist height for the average person, but they don’t come with a bottom (hence the name). Instead, you’ll need to create your own watertight base using a pool liner or poured concrete.
Of course, this is a non-issue if you have kids and you’re concerned about water safety, as the standard 24-inch depth is ideal for children.
They Require Some Modifications
If you’re planning on using your stock tank pool year-round or even just for the season, it’s going to need a filtration system.
This means having to install some basic plumbing to accommodate a pool pump and filter, which will help to circulate water and remove debris. This part involves carefully drilling holes for the inlet and outlet fittings.
If you don’t have a taste for DIY projects or you’re not comfortable drilling holes into several-hundred-dollar pieces of equipment, a stock tank swimming pool might not be for you.
With all that said, those who plan to use the pool sporadically for a few days here and there can probably get by without a filtration system. Just be prepared to drain and refill the water frequently to prevent stagnation and keep the pool sanitary.
They’re Still Prone to Rust
But wait, aren’t the metal types galvanized steel?
Yes, they are, but certain pool chemicals will slowly eat through that protective layer and eventually lead to corrosion — especially if you’re using chlorine as your sanitizer of choice.
Chances are, you won’t notice any rusting for the first year or two, but signs of corrosion will likely start to show by the third season.
One way to prevent this and extend the life of your stock tank pool is to cover it with a vinyl liner. You may also consider a plastic stock tank instead, but they’re not as strong and durable as their metal cousins so they aren’t likely to last as long.
How Much Does a Stock Tank Pool Cost?
The first, and most obvious cost, is the stock tank itself.
This will vary a lot depending on whether you choose a metal (steel) or plastic (polyethylene) stock tank, as well as the stock tank size.
To give you a rough idea, below are the average prices for brand new stock tanks in various sizes and in both materials, though you can also find them much cheaper used if you have a tight budget:
Galvanized stock tanks:
- 6 feet in diameter for around $300
- 8 feet in diameter for around $550
- 10 feet in diameter for around $750
Polyethylene stock tanks:
- 6 feet in diameter for around $250
- 8 feet in diameter for around $400
- 10 feet in diameter for around $550
As for the water, pool equipment, and chemicals, the cost can vary significantly depending on what you choose to buy — especially when it comes to optional extras, like a pool heater.
We wrote an entire article on the cost of running a pool. This article provides a good cost estimate for running and maintaining a stock tank pool, as they aren’t all that different from above-ground pools, cost-wise.
What’s the Verdict?
If you’ve always fancied yourself a swimming pool that but didn’t want to shell out thousands for something that stands the test of time, backward stock tank pools are the perfect middle-ground.
The best part is, there are plenty of guides taking you step-by-step through the entire DIY conversion process, including our own stock tank DIY guide here.