6 Things to Know Before Setting Up a Stock Tank Pool
Dive deep into researching this buzzworthy backyard accessory before setting it up for summer fun.
Stock tanks—large containers traditionally used on farms to water livestock—are getting recreationally repurposed as an affordable alternative to above-ground swimming pools. While a stock tank is widely available at tractor supply stores and well-suited for the farmhouse-rustic design trend, there are several shopping and setup factors to consider before purchase. You’ll also need to learn maintenance practices that ensure water in a stock tank pool is safe for swimming—free of debris, human contaminants, and waterborne bacteria that can cause rashes or infections. We discuss all of this below, so take the plunge!
1. Not all tank materials are equal.
Stock tanks are manufactured out of plastic (usually polyethylene) and metal (usually galvanized steel).
- Plastic tanks are more lightweight (thus easier to transport), resistant to rust and corrosion, and conduct less heat so the water stays cool longer. But they’re more likely to crack or break from a heavy impact, and their coarser surface usually demands a good deal of scrubbing to remove dirt and algae that form in the tank over time. Plus, while the round and oval plastic tanks are self-supporting, square and rectangular models need a separate external frame to stand upright.
- Metal tanks are heavier, more likely to rust or corrode, and conduct more heat, warming the water fairly quickly on a sunny summer day. But they’re less likely to break, don’t need an external frame to stand upright, and their slick surface can easily be wiped down to remove algae.
2. Costs vary depending on material, size, and capacity.
While an in-ground swimming pool can cost $20,000 to $65,000, and an above-ground pool can set you back $3,500 to $15,000, a stock tank can be had for between $200 to $450. Generally, metal tanks cost 35 percent more than plastic ones, and the larger the size and capacity, the more expensive.
Tanks can range from two to 10 feet in length and width for square or rectangular tanks, and two to 10 feet in diameter for round tanks, which can hold between 25 to 800 gallons of water. Generally speaking, stock tanks used as pools should have a length or diameter of at least five feet and a capacity of at least 80 gallons, equating to the size and capacity of an average bathtub.
3. Setup requires careful site selection and a few accessories.
Although setting up a stock tank pool is DIY-friendly, it’s not as simple as plopping the tank down anywhere and filling it up. You’ll need to ensure that the location can support the weight of the tank, water, and the number of people who’ll be taking a dip. The ground must also be level and free of rocks. In general, the heavier metal tanks require a solid foundation such as concrete, and shouldn’t be set up on wooden decks with weak spots (e.g., rotted wood), but lighter plastic tanks may be set up on either soft or hard surfaces. Also consider situating the stock tank pool in the shade of a tree or on a covered patio to maintain pleasant water temperature.
To make it easier to fill the pool and filter out human contaminants and bacteria, buy and assemble a filter pump combo (e.g., Intex Filter Pump, available on Amazon). Installation usually requires drilling a few holes in the tank and feeding the pump hardware into it. Attach the filter pump tubes to the hardware and then run the pump to fill the pool with water.
4. It’s a magnet for mosquitoes and algae.
Standing water, particularly the warm water found in a stock tank pool at the end of a hot day, attracts mosquitoes and the bacteria that cause algae. While a filter pump will keep the water circulating, making it less hospitable to mosquitoes landing in it and laying eggs, you may still get biting pests buzzing around the tub.
Because draining the tank after every use to prevent standing water is wasteful (and likely to spike your water bill), hang mosquito nets from a tree or patio roof to keep mosquitos at bay. Likewise, use chlorine tablets (e.g., In the Swim Chlorine Tablets, available on Amazon) as recommended on the packaging to kill bacteria and stave off algae. With this strategy, you can keep the water in your tank cleaner, longer, avoiding the need for frequent refills.
5. Metal tanks a vulnerable to rust.
Metal stock tank pools are susceptible to rust and corrosion in the presence of water. The risk worsens if you drop chlorine tablets directly into the tank, as chlorine reacts with water to form corrosive acids. To prevent rusting and corrosion, seal the inside of the water tank before use with a rust-proof agent like a rubber coating (e.g., Flex Seal, available on Amazon) or truck bed coating spray (e.g., Rust-Oleum Automotive, available on Amazon). Dispense chlorine tablets in a chlorine float (a slow-release chlorine dispenser such as the AquaAce Floating Chlorine Dispenser, available on Amazon).
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6. Proper maintenance is the key to pristine pool water.
Your filter pump will filter out a good deal of human contaminants and bacteria in your pool—both dead bacteria the chlorine killed and live bacteria the chlorine missed. But it won’t catch large dirt and grime deposits, which can make the pool unsightly and, in the case of twigs and other large debris, cause injuries. Use these maintenance tips to keep your water clean and clear all summer long:
- Remove leaves, twigs, and other debris that fall into the tank with a pool skimmer daily or as needed.
- Drain the stock tank pool two to three times each season, using the drain plug usually located on the bottom.
- Pressure-wash the tank each time you drain it to eliminate dirt or algae deposits that may have accumulated on the base and walls. You can rent a pressure washer at The Home Depot for around $30 for a half day or use the tips in our shopping guide to invest in one of the best pressure washers for all of your outdoor chores.
- Use a scrub brush saturated with soapy water to loosen any stubborn grime the pressure washer didn’t catch, and then use a dry rag to wipe up the loosened material.
- During seasons when your tank is not in use, store it in a covered space such as the garage or a shed, covering it with a tarp to keep out bugs.