This post has been a long time in the making! I have been dreaming of having a water feature in our yard since we moved into our small duplex in 2000. Back then, I just didn’t know a stock tank swimming pool existed. Some call them trailer trash pools, hillbilly pools, redneck retreats, or cowboy pools which doesn’t phase me at all.
There is a certain nostalgia in seeing that steel tub sitting in a desert scene with some cactuses and cowboy hats and boots next to it. For us, unfortunately, the bare steel didn’t work long-term so we had to alter the look, and here is why…
Our yard is pretty much all hill. It is a long and narrow yard that slopes right after our paver patio. Once upon a time about 16 years ago, I had a landscaping company come over to give me an estimate for how much it would be to dig out a part of the hill to make room for a small above-ground pool. The guy just laughed at me and said he wasn’t even going to give me an estimate because he doesn’t want to do the job. There was no room to get heavy equipment in to dig that out and he didn’t know anyone who would do this by hand. I was so bummed. Pennsylvania summers are hot and I wanted a small backyard pool so we could play with our small kids and cool off.
A very small and expensive in-ground pool was definitely out of the question if we couldn’t even get heavy equipment in our backyard to do the job.
For me, the only option was to nag my husband to dig. I had even purchased an 8-foot Intex above-ground pool at some point which we only ended up giving to the neighbors where we used it in their yard for a couple of years while the kids were little. I was however determined to one day find a solution.
(Disclosure: The Tractor Supply Company provided us with the stock tank and all opinions are as always 100% my own!)
So when I saw a stock tank pop up here and there on Instagram and YouTube years ago before the pandemic, I knew the galvanized metal was strong enough to stand within our hill. With the help of my daughter, I started to nag my husband again about digging. Changing his stance on digging took about a year. We all knew it would end up being a lot of work to dig out the hill by hand and also carry and discard the soil with buckets alone. Yeah, not fun! But one day in early March this year he decided to start digging. It was his evening workout routine for a couple of weeks and he did it all by himself which is kind of insane.
Our kids aren’t little anymore but that doesn’t change the fact that floating or sitting in water still sounds amazing even if it is only the size of a kiddie pool.
Our stock tank swimming pool
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I think Hey Wanderer owns the bragging rights to being the stock tank pool pioneer on the internet. And by now, after the pandemic, you see them everywhere on social media and blogs.
So why am I feeling the desire to write another tutorial? Well, I feel like I definitely have some new points to add to the conversation because I have learned some things along the way that are different from what everyone else has done which also includes some failures.
There are so many posts out there by big websites claiming to be the experts but yet they have never had a pool like this themselves. We have had ours since before the pandemic though, as a matter of fact, this project was originally posted on May 29, 2019. So we have experience when it comes to dealing with our little metal pool.
Our sloped yard before we started
This is not a cheap project but for us, it was the only way of adding water to our sloped backyard. We had to go beyond the standard version of just plopping a stock tank on a leveled surface and adding a small pump.
What makes our stock tank pool different?
We had to find the best long-term solution. Unlike several other stock tank swimming pool projects I have seen out there where people are just able to quickly drain and refill the pool again, we knew that if we placed this tank into our hill, we couldn’t just take it out and troubleshoot it in a year or two when it started to rust. We had to have it in place to last a long time because we simply can’t move it out of the hill once it is wedged in with rocks. We could have possibly built a wooden deck around it but the stone and rock double as a retaining wall as well and made more sense for us.
List of differences
- We added a pool liner because they have a 20-year warranty and then needed a way to hide the liner on the outside. I first wanted to make our stock tank look like a wooden barrel as I saw in my inspiration photo but I ultimately decided it was too much wood since the fence is right next to the tank and that was the reason that I chose to go with bamboo instead. Should you want to make your stock tank look like a barrel, I sourced this wood and galvanized duct outlet hanger straps HERE or HERE which can be used to screw the wood slats together with short outdoor screws for that barrel look. Or you could use outdoor wood pathway rolls to cover the outside of the tank for that wood barrel look.
- Our stock tank swimming pool is dug into a steep backyard hill.
- We used a lot of rock and stone around it.
- And we learned that coating/painting it with a rubber coating made for metal roofs does not work. This wasn’t a cheap mistake and I was rather upset. You can see in my video how the rubber coating just peels off which is why we ended up going with the liner. “Hey Wanderer” used a rubber coating on their tank once it started rusting and it appears to be working for them. The reason for that is that it wasn’t a new tank and the galvanization had worn off already. The new galvanized metal prevents the rubber coating and any type of paint from sticking. And, yes I cleaned, scuffed, and washed the tank down with vinegar and it still didn’t work)
Things to consider when deciding what is best for your own stock tank pool version
- Do you want chlorine or saltwater or simply just drain the water when dirty so you can refill it? The 8-foot stock tank pool holds 700 gallons of water by the way so I think most people don’t want to drain it all the time. In our yard that was also not an option. (watch a YouTube video on why you shouldn’t use saltwater in a metal pool)
- Chlorine and salt water will eat away the galvanization of the metal and it will eventually rust. Remember the tank is made for livestock to drink fresh water from not altered pool water. So if you are looking for a long-term solution, protecting the metal is definitely necessary.
- What pump should you buy? Do you want a cheaper one where you continuously have to buy and change the filters or do you want a more pricey sand filter pump where you don’t need to buy any filters? We ended up with the 10-inch Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump.
- Figuring out the right hose connections since some of the older tutorials have parts that aren’t available anymore. This was the biggest pain in the you-know-what for me but I think what I bought is working well so far.
Supplies and materials we’ve used
- stock tank from Tractor Supply Company
- Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools, 10-inch
- filter sand
- waterproof caulk
- 8-foot round pool liner (or possibly HERE and you could also add one of these 59″ round decorative faux mosaic pool mats to the bottom of your stock tank over the liner for an added fun touch)
- metal spring clamps
- bamboo fence or HERE (I bought my first section of bamboo HERE which comes in an exact 2-foot height which is perfect for the stock tank pool and you would need about 3 orders of it, should you plan on putting it around your entire tank. I had only ordered one to see how the quality was but ordered a second time around from Amazon since as a Prime member the shipping is a lot faster, costs the same amount and I had the ability to return it, should I not need it after all. They don’t have it in 2-foot height anywhere, so we just ordered the 3-foot and cut the extra foot off. Make sure to cut on the side of the bamboo that is open, so you can have the closed stakes facing upwards. Just in case you are wondering why I didn’t order the 4-foot bamboo and cut it in half so I would have two 2-foot sections right away… Well, bamboo has a tendency to splinter, and like I said I wanted the top stakes to be closed. This way I ensured it all looked clean and neat. Hope that makes sense)
- 2B stone for backfill (we bought two yards of the gravel at the local landscaping place who delivered it into our driveway and it was around $110 including delivery)
- various sizes of landscaping rocks and river rocks (It really paid off that my husband is a rock hoarder LOL. Sounds kind of caveman-ish doesn’t it? But it’s true. He and his best friend, who recently passed away, used to take his dump truck onto his grandfather’s property and collect huge boulders and rocks. We had planned to one day add a water feature but weren’t sure what it would be. My husband scattered the rocks throughout our landscaping and we couldn’t believe how many we actually had.
- plants of your choice
- small pool vacuum
- chlorine tablets and floating chlorine dispenser
- frog log so animals won’t drown
- paver base sand
- large spring clamps to keep the liner in place
- 2×4 piece of wood and level
- power drill and 2 3/4″ hole saw bit for metal
- water test kit and app
- water inlet and outlet parts:
They used to sell a kit on Amazon for the inlet and outlet for the water circulation leading to and from the pump. Unfortunately, that kit isn’t available anymore and I had to search for all the separate parts on my own which was a tad bit frustrating. I’m sure as this stock tank pool trend grows, there will be products just for this project popping up which will make it so much easier.
Here is the full list of separate parts with part numbers which can be confusing and frustrating:
I bought this Intex Pool Inlet Air Water Jet Replacement Part Kit which comes with plunger valve (#10747), air jet valve (#12363), air jet valve cap (#12373), inlet threaded air connector 1050-1900, part #12371 and adjustable pool inlet jet nozzle (#12369) but I didn’t use the 2 strainer connectors (#11070) and 2 strainer grids (#11072) from the kit because I wanted the setup to be how I’ve seen them in other tutorials.
So I bought the threaded strainer connector (#11235) (also, an additional strainer washer (10255) and strainer nut (10256) for the threaded strainer connector), a threaded cover (bought on eBay but isn’t really necessary), and additional plunger valve to add to the kit and complete the setup.
BAMBOO UPDATE: We didn’t varnish the bamboo ahead of putting it around the pool and I definitely recommend that you make sure it is protected from all the water and weather before the project. The bamboo ended up with a large amount of mold from all the water splashing and rain and we used mold cleaner to easily clean the bamboo before applying Cedartone VOC stain that the bamboo websites recommended. Protecting the bamboo right from the start will make the staining process a lot easier and save you a lot of time.
See the entire process in my video
Prepping the ground for your stock tank
The area prep is one of the most important steps of this project and you will be sorry in the end if you didn’t level the ground properly.
My husband stuck a screwdriver with string to the center of the floor to ensure he carved out enough soil for the 8-foot round tank to fit.
Then he added paver base sand, leveled and tampered it.
We hired an electrician to add an outlet for the pump and my husband had to dig a trench for that as well.
Adding the pool liner
Below you can see my first attempt at protecting the metal of the pool with flex seal which I mentioned above already. It is used for coating metal roofs and I was convinced that it would work. You can see in my video how much it was flaking almost immediately. So save yourself the money and don’t try to do what I did.
The only other option was to add a pool liner and I wasn’t sure if it was going to fit. It literally drapes over the tank like a trash bag over a trashcan and ended up fitting perfectly. I’m also glad that the ugly fake tile portion of the liner isn’t visible since the tank is only 2 foot tall.
And in case you are wondering, yes, we just placed the liner over the chipping flex seal. I didn’t feel like stripping that crap off and don’t think there was a need to either.
Smoothing out the wrinkles wasn’t as easy as I thought but it was doable. It would have been a lot easier had I not gotten caught in a rainstorm and had to empty the pool again. So make sure when you work on this that your weather isn’t acting up.
Pump, valve inlet, and outlet setup
In the video, you can see how I drilled the hole and I had to cut the liner for that.
Regular above-ground swimming pool companies recommend the water inlet and outlet to be about 2-3 feet away from each other to ensure proper water circulation. Still, since this pool is so small it won’t be an issue and we also didn’t have a different area for them.
We filled the area under the plunger valves with 2B stone.
We caulked around the inlet and outlet inside the pool and on the outside of the pool. Make sure the caulk has dried and the plunger valves are set to close before filling the pool with water.
Set up your water filtration system according to the manufacturer’s instructions. We placed ours on a paver stone which we bought at Lowes. Make sure that the pump also sits on a leveled surface.
(I have since found a simple solution to cover the pool pump and make it blend in with all the rocks and landscaping)
Fill up your tank with water slowly to ensure that there are no leaks on the outside.
Here you can see the pump running and successfully circulating the water.
Adding a bamboo fence around the tank
The above situation of the liner just hanging over the tank was of course less than desirable and it is definitely a must to cover the ugly part of the liner overhang.
As I mentioned above, I wanted to add wood to it at first to make it look like a wooden barrel. See above what options you can use to achieve that look but since we have the dark brown fence right behind it, I decided that contrast would look better with the bamboo and I think I was right to choose bamboo instead.
Below you can see how I used the metal spring clamps to keep the liner in place while we added the bamboo and rocks around the pool. The stone and rocks are what keep the liner and bamboo in place. If you are adding a liner without using rocks around it, just use thick wire to tie the bamboo in place where the ends meet.
Back filling the hill
Since our yard is sloped and we nestled the tank into the hill we had to backfill the ground.
We used 2B stone to backfill the pool area to avoid backwash. If there would be soil around it the water couldn’t drain when overflowing or splashing around occurs and the mud would wash back into the pool.
After my husband was done filling the back and sides of the pool with the 2B stone, he built the rock walls. The stone was also a good base for all the rock we were going to add to the back wall seating area. If we had to buy the rocks, we would have probably had to spend a lot of money at a landscaping company for the large rocks but we were lucky that my husband has a rock obsession and likes to hoard them in our yard.
Years and years before we even had kids and had just moved into our home, my husband used to work with a friend on the side waterproofing basements. He and his friend used to love taking the business’s dump truck onto his grandfather’s wooded property to search for rocks and they’d bring home truckloads of them, which he used for our stairs and also stacked around trees in anticipation of one day using them for a water feature which we thought was going to be a pond maybe.
We were really lucky to have had the rocks now. And it is also a bittersweet reminder of our friend who recently passed away. We are always reminded of him and how the two of them loved spending time in the woods searching for rocks.
As I said before, there are many other DIYers who have added wooden decks around their plunge pools which looks great too. Rocks like ours aren’t for everyone, especially if you have small children and are afraid that they might slip and hit their heads. For small kids, it might be a good idea to add pool noodles to the rim of the pool, to prevent them from hitting their heads on the edge.
Photos of the finished stock tank swimming pool
I can already say that we absolutely love using it. It is small but all we need for cooling off and floating around.
Pictured below is a view from the top of our sloped yard where we have another patio. On the right side, you can see the pool peeking through the leaves with the blue water. The blue liner actually matches nicely now with all the other blue decor we have. My seat cushions are all blue and so is our birdbath.
My husband arranged the largest flat rocks at the bottom to make it a row of seating for us to sit and hang out which we have done many evenings already, and the best part is that the mosquitos can’t bite my ankles anymore and I stay nice and cool.
He placed the rocks on the right side of the stock tank to make them function as stairs and that setup works perfectly for us. The gaps were filled in with river rocks that we collected by the river right by our house.
We also have an herb garden right next to our set-up.
To say “we love our outdoor space” now is an understatement. We are obsessed is more like it! This is where you can find us on a hot summer day!
UPDATE: Below is a photo after owning our little DIY pool for 4 years. The photo was taken right after we just opened it up for the summer. The plants are just starting to come up. It looks really bare because we recently had to cut the large bush down that you see in the other photos above. We also need to give the bamboo a fresh coat of stain again.
Using a solar pool cover that we cut to size helps with the debris from the trees and keeps the water warm in the early cold spring weather.
Frequently asked stock tank pool questions
How to bring a stock tank home?
All you need is a trailer and some straps and with the help of a neighbor, we were easily able to bring the tank into our yard. See more about it in my video.
How do you keep your stock tank pool clean?
Just like a traditional pool, the water maintenance supplies are of course the sand filter, floating chlorine dispenser with chlorine tablets, and the occasional other pool chemicals. After testing we frequently use the skimmer and above-linked non-electric vacuum that simply uses airflow to suck out the dirt. This combo works really well to keep the pool clean so far.
We only had one issue after returning from vacation last year where the pool had a ton of debris, bacteria, and algae in it and resulting in a green mess that only a frog would like as you can see below.
The reason that happened was that the outlet needed to be reset which resulted in the pump not working and the standing water for almost 2 weeks. Yikes. Now I just have my neighbors check that it is all working every other day when we are gone.
Do stock tank pools get hot?
The water gets warmer but not hot and since the kids play in it a lot and the water gets splashed out, we also have to frequently add fresh cold water to it. So far the temperature has not been a problem for us and I know other people who have one claim the same as us.
Do stock tank pools rust?
As I mentioned above, stock tank swimming pools will eventually rust because they are made for regular drinking water. Adding either salt or chlorine to the water will eat away the galvanization and the pool will start to rust which is why we added the liner.
Does the pool liner have to be a round 8-foot liner?
Yes, it definitely has to be in order for it to be smooth and flat. The setup would be a wrinkly mess with a larger liner. Even the 8-foot liner still wrinkles a bit in some spots.
When I was filling it up with fresh clean water recently after a long winter, I noticed how tight it was everywhere and I googled around and found several posts explaining why a liner shrinks. (Note, we didn’t empty it all the way, only halfway. However in order to find and patch some holes, we usually have to drain it all the way after the winter.)
Here is a fact that we learned after having the same liner for several years now: Pool liners shrink! Who knew!!! The vinyl deteriorates in the sun’s UV rays and pool chemicals over time which makes it shrink and eventually crack if it gets too tight. This is where we come to the next question below…
What will you do if you have to replace your pool liner?
This was a question that worried me for a while as well. It is quite obvious that we can’t just simply add another liner to ours since it is pretty much built into the hill. If you have a freestanding stock tank then you can just add a new one without a problem.
I recently came across a YouTube video where someone else used blue-tinted spray-in Raptor Liner for pickup truck beds. That was an aha moment and that’s what I will do to ours once the liner goes bad since it appears to have held up great after two years that way. It also looks great too!
Plastic stock tanks are a better option for those of you who don’t want to deal with vinyl liners or adding a spray-in liner. In our case, the plastic wouldn’t have held up all the rocks though and was the perfect solution.
Can you turn your set-up into a hot tub?
While I have seen other people turn their stock tanks into DIY hot tubs, I wouldn’t recommend it for our version with the pool liner. I don’t want to risk ruining the liner because it hasn’t been tested. I’ve seen at least 3 tutorials so far though for the plain metal ones.
How do you hide your stock tank pool pump?
I wrote a blog post specifically about the pool pump cover where you can see in detail how I integrated the pump into our landscaping.
More stock tank pool posts
- What we have learned after owning the pool for one summer
- Check out the only way to stop your stonk tank pool from rusting
- more stock tank pool ideas inspired by ours
- Here is another blog post about how we opened up our stock tank pool after the first winter and what issues we had to fix
- Or my blog post about my favorite outdoor solar lights I used in and around the little oasis
I hope this post was helpful and if you have any questions please do ask below so I can edit this post and add the answers to my blog post.
Thanks so much to the Tractor Supply Company for providing us with their stock tank. I think the photos speak volumes about how much we love it. We would have never been able to add a little pool to our yard without this galvanized stock tank that is supposed to keep animals hydrated and healthy.