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Stock Tank Pools - The Cute and Affordable Pool?

Tobias Roberts, Rise Writer
Jul 15, 2020 ⋅  8 min read

Just over four percent of households in the United States have an in-ground pool installed on their property. Though a pool certainly increases property value and adds a "fun dimension" to any home, not every homeowner can afford the average $35,000 for a new, in-ground pool installation. A new pool will probably cost you more than a complete residential solar panel system to help your home achieve net-zero status. Whereas investment in solar panels will most likely pay for itself in energy savings, pools can be expensive in maintenance, repairs, and energy use.

One unique alternative to the massive investment that in-ground pools require is a stock tank pool. This attractive and affordable pool alternative is low maintenance, easy to install. It offers endless opportunities for recreation at a fraction of the cost. There are also numerous sustainability advantages to opting for a stock tank pool, which we will explore below.

Stock Tank Pool in the Desert. Photo Credit: The Joshua Treehouse

What is a Stock Tank Pool? 

Unless you own a 10,000-acre ranch in Montana or Texas, the term "stock tank" probably doesn't ring a bell. For those without relevant experience in raising livestock, a stock tank is essentially an oversized metal bucket. These tanks are placed in strategic places on farms or ranches to serve as a watering station for horses, cattle, sheep, and other pastured animals. Stock tanks come in different sizes and usually range between three and ten feet in diameter and 2 to 3 feet in depth. Because stock tanks are designed to be left outside, they are generally made from thick, galvanized metal. This metal makes them extremely durable, puncture-proof, and rust-resistant.

When going through old, black and white pictures from your parents or grandparent's photo albums, you might happen to come across an old-fashioned pool party with a bunch of kids playing in a big, metal bucket. Stock tank pool parties might have been an improvised afternoon of fun during the generation of our grandparents. Today, however, many homeowners and landscape specialists have ingeniously begun designing small, residential pools made from stock tanks.

Black Stock Tank Pool. Photo Credit: Keys With Katie B

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What Are the Advantages of a Stock Tank Pool?

There are numerous advantages to a stock tank pool over a more traditional in-ground pool. Whereas an in-ground pool might cost you upwards of $20,000 to $30,000 to install, you can find new galvanized metal stock tanks for $100 to $200. Installation requires no excavation or professional help, making this an excellent homeowner DIY project for the hot summer months. Other options costs include a small filter and pump that might cost you an additional $100. If you have extra lumber or salvaged boards taking up space in your garage, a small deck can add a bit of charm around the stock tank pool.

Large, in-ground pools require energy-intensive pumps to keep the water clean throughout the year. A 1 HP pool pump probably uses around 2,500 kWh of energy each year, which adds at least $30 per month to your summer energy bills. Because stock tank pools are significantly smaller, they can rely on much smaller pumps to keep the water filtered and clean.

Generally, a 1,000 gallon-per-minute pump designed for above-ground pools will be more than enough to keep your stock tank pool filtered and clean. Expect to pay between $50 and $100 for this type of pump. Due to their smaller size, these pumps use a fraction of the energy.

What to Look for in a Stock Tank Pool

If you think that a stock tank pool might be a great addition to your yard, there are several things to consider:

What Size Stock Tank Pool Is Best for Your Family? 

While you can find stock tank pools in various sizes, most commercially sold options come in 8-foot and 6-foot diameters. The larger, 8-foot option is nominally more expensive. It is generally a better option for families or if you expect that the pool will be used by more than two people regularly. The smaller, 6-foot sized stock tank pool is excellent for people with small yards, or small households that want a place to rest and relax on the weekends or after getting home from work.

What Depth of Stock Tank Pool Is Best? 

The most common depth for stock tank pools is two feet. While you obviously will not be doing any dives with this depth, that's not the point with a stock tank pool. A depth of two feet is generally safe for younger kids with adult supervision. However, it is critical to recognize that drowning can be a risk in even the shallowest of water. 

Should I Get a Round or Oval Stock Tank Pool? 

If you are looking for a larger pool for families or to accommodate several kids, a round, eight-foot pool is the way to go. Oval stock tanks are generally a little cheaper. However, when made into a pool, you should only expect to fit a maximum of two people.  

Do I Need a Filter For My Stock Tank Pool? 

The need for a filter depends on your stock tank pool's size and how often you plan to use it. For example, a small 2-foot by 4-foot oval stock tank is like a large bathtub. For a little cabin in the woods that you plan to visit on the odd weekend, this size stock tank pool could be filled up and emptied every time you use it. While this will use a bit more water, it also reduces energy use associated with the pump. A pump and simple filtering system will be necessary for any stock tank pool that is more permanent and designed to be used throughout the summer.

Stock Tank Pool on Display. Photo Credit: Stock Tank House

Some Design Ideas for Your Stock Tank Pool

The gray galvanized metal color of stock tanks is not necessarily an attractive color that will spruce up your yard, deck, or patio. However, the exteriors of galvanized pools can be painted to mesh with the rest of your exterior decoration. For example, this copper painted stock tank pool would be an excellent complement for homes with copper flashing or similar colored trim.

Stock Tank with Deck. Photo Credit: Art Bella Creates

Another way to "hide" the walls of your stock tank pool is by surrounding them with decking. If you plan to build a backyard deck to add to your outdoor living space, a small stock tank pool can make for a great addition. Add a shade umbrella, a few lounging chairs, and there you have it - an excellent replacement for the beach or the public pool.

Covered Stock Tank Pool. Photo Credit: Tony Connect via Instagram

If you want more of a traditional pool look and feel, simple pool liners can also be purchased and fitted to the inside of the stock tank. Stock tank pools don't necessarily have to be located outside, under the sun either. Check out this fantastic design for a patio stock tank pool that repurposed old pallets into a beautiful, functional outdoor living space.

Retro Stock Tank Pool. Photo Credit: H2O Tank Avenue

Where to Buy a Stock Tank Pool? 

Stock tanks can be found at many farm stores around the country. Tractor Supply Company has a whole page dedicated to the stock tanks that they sell, to name just one example. New businesses dedicated to creating stock tank pools, like H20 Tank Avenue, offer many size options as well as customization and installation services.

Of course, pretty much everything is sold on Amazon these days, and they also have several options for stock tanks for you to choose from. Agri Supply and Tank and Barrel and Livestock Equipment are other providers in the US and Canada that can ship their different sized stock tanks.

It is also possible to find used stock tanks that can be salvaged and repurposed into a beautiful backyard pool. Galvanized metal is exceptionally durable and rust-proof. If a local farmer has one up for sale, you might get a great deal. A day of washing and disinfecting the pool will leave you with a clean, safe pool alternative.

How Do You Make a DIY Stock Tank Pool?

One of the best aspects of stock tank pools is that they are an excellent option for a homeowner DIY project. As mentioned in the introduction, stock tank pools require no excavation or heavy machinery, which radically lowers the installation costs. To install your stock tank pool, follow these steps:

Stock Tank Pool in the Woods. Photo Credit: StockTankPool.net

With the COVID 19 pandemic still raging across the country, taking your kids to the public pool might not be the greatest idea if they are even open. For a couple of hundred dollars and a weekend of work, you can create a backyard oasis with a simple, beautiful, and fun stock tank pool. It could offer hours of fun and recreation for your family!

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Article by:Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.