Both kids and adults will appreciate the chance to cool off in a pool you built yourself.
You’ve seen them on Instagram or other social media platforms. Quaint, redneck-y, trendy, stock tank pools. There was a time when I passingly considered them “cute.” But then the pandemic hit and we were faced with spending a summer at home—no water parks, no public pools, no visiting friends’ pools. With a 5-year-old to keep busy for the summer, I suddenly started to look at a stock tank pool as something we needed. So, after a frantic search for the biggest stock tank possible, an afternoon of research, and an Amazon order, the project was set in motion.
In a few days, I had everything I needed to get started. It took me a day to figure things out and get it set up, and another day a short while later to go overboard and add a small deck. I’m sharing how I set up ours as a general guide on how to build your own DIY stock tank pool. Below is a list of things you’ll need. I’ve provided the items I used, but you should pick the sizes or models that work best for your pool. If you choose a smaller tank, you might want to use a smaller pump and filter. Or, if your tank is much smaller, you might forgo the pump and filter altogether and just refill it when you want to use it. Be prepared to improvise a little, as you’ll be connecting things that may not have originally been intended to work together.
Stock Tank Pool Materials and Supplies
- Stock tank
- Pool pump and filter (there are many to choose from)
- Pool skimmer (optional)
- Pool ladder (optional, but recommended for children)
- Gasket material
- Vinyl hose (optional)
- Hose clamps
- Water testing kit
- Floating chlorine dispenser
Note: I have legitimate reasons—beyond style, aesthetics, or being trendy—for choosing to build a stock tank pool, even though there are plenty of small, soft-sided, inflatable pools available to buy as kits all ready to install. While these other pools seem to be reasonably durable, there’s always a concern about puncturing the pool material. This is also something to keep in mind with the pools designed with a tube frame and exposed sides. With a metal or poly stock tank, there’s very little risk of damaging it with a string trimmer, debris kicked up by a lawn mower, kids swinging sticks, or dogs trying to get in or out.
Planning and Selecting Components
The first thing is to determine the size of stock tank you want—this decision will guide what other parts you’ll need. It helps to understand what a stock tank actually is, in order to know where best to find one. Typically, stock tanks are used on farms for watering or feeding livestock—so farm supply stores and farm and garden classifieds were where I was looking. I wanted the biggest one possible, but if you’re setting one up, consider where you’re putting it before settling on a size. I liked the rustic farm aesthetic of a galvanized metal tank, so I was going to get this 8-foot-wide by 2-foot-high model made by CountyLine. But at the last minute I settled on a Behlen Country 9-foot-wide poly tank that I found on Facebook Marketplace for $150. Aside from being wider, the poly tank was also 4 inches taller.
The stock tank I chose had a capacity of almost 1,000 gallons, so I wanted a robust pump with a decent filter. I ended up choosing an Intex Krystal Clear cartridge filer pump with a 1,000 gallon-per-hour flow rate. This should be able to filter all the water in the pool every hour. Note that Intex makes most of the things I used in my pool—they’re inexpensive and have held up reasonably well. In addition to the pump and filter, I also wanted a skimmer to catch debris that fell into the water before it sank and cluttered the bottom. The skimmer isn’t necessary, but I have our pool situated near a tree to provide some afternoon shade and expected to have some leaves to deal with. The last major pool accessory was a ladder. If you have kids that will be using the pool, it’s an important thing to have for safety.
You will also need some pool maintenance basics for testing and treating water. Dealing with the water quality was one of my biggest worries. Eventually, I found a simple test kit that was super easy to use. For chlorination, I got a small floating chlorine dispenser and 1-inch chlorine tablets. I found that adding three to four tablets every three to four days kept the chlorine level in the desired range. You’ll want to get these things before the pool is set up so you can treat the water as soon as it’s filled.
Set the Stock Tank
Once you’ve got all the parts, the next thing to do is make sure the place you want to put your stock tank is level. In my case, I did this by using a 2×6 and a level. I then used a stake, a rope, and some survey marking paint to mark the outline where the tank would go. The bottom of my tank was a little over 8 feet across, so the I tied the rope to the stake, measured 4 feet and a couple of inches on the rope, tied it to the can, and then sprayed the paint on the grass in a big circle.
I used a shovel to cut around the circle and then remove all the grass and a little dirt on one side. Strictly speaking, if you ground is pretty level, you could just drop the stock tank where you want it—it’ll be fine. My location was over an inch high on one side, and I wanted it level, so I cleared and leveled it. The second year I set the pool up, I got a couple bags of play sand to make the spot even flatter.
Installing Fittings in the Stock Tank
If you’re using a pump and a filter like the one I chose, you’ll need to drill/cut holes in the side of your stock tank for the inlet and outlet lines. Doing this and installing the inlet and outlet housings are the most important steps in setting up your stock tank pool. They need to be secure and sealed so they won’t leak.
The pool pump and filter I chose came with all the fittings to connect it to a pool. But you’re connecting it to a stock tank, so you’ll need a couple of more things. First, cut two holes in the stock tank to mount the inlet and outlet. I used a 1 and 3⁄8-inch hole saw and a drill to do this. Then cut gaskets from a sheet of silicone material to go between the tank wall and the inlet and outlet flanges. I simply traced the flanges onto the silicone and cut them out. Then drill four holes through the flanges, gasket, and pool wall.
COn the outside of the stock tank, you can use plain washers with nylock nuts. Don’t over-tighten them; the gasket will seal fine with them just snugged up.Using stainless-steel machine screws, stainless-steel fender washers, stainless-steel plain washers, and nylock nuts, I fastened the inlet and outlet to the tank walls. You don’t need to crank them down super tight, in fact doing that can deform the plastic and cause the gasket to not seal. Just tighten them down snug.
Connecting the Pump and Filter
With the inlet and outlet installed, you can simply follow the directions that came with the pump to connect it to the inlet and outlets with the included hose and clamps. The hose was a little flimsy, and the clamps alway leaked just a little bit, so when I set up the pool the second year, I replaced them with much tougher 1.25-inch ID vinyl-reinforced hose and stainless-steel hose clamps. For one of the fittings, I had to make a bushing out of 1-inch ID vinyl hose to size it down to fit.
When I first set it up, I noticed the pump could easily be knocked over. The base of the pump house has holes in it, so I screwed it to a square piece of plywood to stabilize it. When I built a small deck for the pool, I included a shelf where the pump could be mounted.
Plug the Drain Hole and Fill the Pool Up
If your tank gas a hole to drain it, you’ll need to put a plug in it before filling the pool. The poly stock tank I used had an NPT (National Pipe Thread) threaded aluminum insert in the drain hole. I used PVC fittings, which won’t react with the aluminum and seize, to connect a ball valve so I can easily drain the pool. You could also use a PVC pipe plug to seal it up. With the drain closed up, you can fill the pool up.
Plug in the Pump and Start It Up
The pump comes equipped with a Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) plug, so that if there is any electrical fault, it will “trip” and cut off power to the pump. You will still need to protect the plug from water though. If your pump is close to an outdoor outlet with a weatherproof cover, that’s an ideal place to plug it in. If not, you’ll need to use a heavy extension cord and a weatherproof connection enclosure to ensure the plug doesn’t get wet and your pool guests don’t get electrocuted.
In a pinch to get our pool going, I actually made a weatherproof box for the plug out of a locking food storage container with a gasket. This was attached to the side of the pool deck, and the holes the cords feed through are all on the bottom of the box.