Stock tank pool ideas: 15 stylish ways to take the plunge
Whether your garden is palatial or pint-sized, these stock tank pool ideas are the perfect way to make your yard a vacation destination
Creative stock tank pool ideas are perfect if you're searching for a fun and affordable way to cool off on a hot day. These small pools of water offer a respite for the kids and dogs during the afternoon, while the adults can kick back and cool off in the evening with a relaxing beverage and savor a view of the nighttime skies.
For many, building a private inground swimming pool in the backyard is exorbitant, especially with inflation and supply chain issues driving up prices. Not ones to wither in the heat, many people have bought those shiny silver stock tanks and turned them into clever and enviable micro pools. They are the stars of summer Instagram posts, revealing happy kids, fun flamingo floats, accessible decks, and inspirational outdoor decorating ideas.
Quarantines during the pandemic have prevented people from using community pools or even those of close friends. When times get tough and materials are scarce, people get creative. For some, part of the appeal is to modify their pools by adding deck surrounds, pergolas, and steps, along with sharing advice, DIYs, and failures on social media platforms.
A stock tank project is tens of thousands of dollars cheaper than inground backyard pool ideas and easier and more fun to customize than an inflatable or collapsible above-ground model. Stock tanks come in shiny galvanized steel or polyresin and are also known as cowboy pools, hillbilly hot tubs, cocktail pools, trough pools, and STPs.
So, how do you make stock tanks into pools? A project can be easy or elaborate. 'Know going in if this will be a focal point in your yard or a hidden gem,' says Jennifer Ohs, owner of STP 4 ATL in Atlanta. 'Both approaches can work well, but you might not want a painted pool with a large deck if you want your pool to blend into the scenery.'
Ready to take the plunge? Enjoy our variety of stock tank pool designs.
Give your yard a resort vibe with these stock tank pool ideas
Unlike private, pricey inground swimming pools, stock tank pool ideas are affordable and can be installed with little effort. Tap into your ingenuity and DIY skills for a more elaborate outdoor space, with a pool deck or pool patio, overhead shelter, and beautiful landscaping.
Many homeowners have repurposed materials and free goods like pallets and are resourceful in procuring and engineering filters, pumps, heaters, and covers too.
If you aren’t a do-it-yourselfer, companies like H2O Tank Avenue in California, Nevada, and Arizona; and Stock Tank Love in Texas will sell you a pool, install it, and build a deck or add decorative extras.
1. Convert a stock tank into a hot tub
Toronto, Canada, might seem chilly for a stock tank pool, but learning how to heat a pool with a small heater allowed Shelby Hall Mailloux to transform it into one one of the best hot tubs from May through October. The tank she bought at Salt Shake Backyards is less costly than a traditional spa; the propane heater is turned off when temperatures rise and cooler water is preferred.
Mailloux uses chlorine tablets to maintain it and keeps the pump on to circulate the water for a minimum of four hours a day. A cedar cover keeps debris out of the tank and she drains the pool every few weeks. During the winter, the pool is drained for the season and turned upside down.
Mailloux built a deck, railing, and privacy fence made of pressure-treated and stained wood to make it an inviting retreat. Edison bulb-style outdoor string lights illuminate the space and add ambiance, while potted plants like palms and agapanthus give this Canadian hot tub tropical vibes throughout the summer.
2. Paint it white to reflect heat
As a tribute to its Wild West roots, Olivia and Matthew Cuellar call their stock tank pool a ‘cowboy tub’. It’s part of Dreamscape, their Airbnb rental in Landers, California, near Joshua Tree.
Olivia is aware of the region’s stock tank history. 'People often used the smaller ones as a way to take a bath – think about those old Westerns of the 1950s,' says Olivia.
The Cuellars painted theirs white for contrast and its ability to reflect sunlight and maintain a lower temperature (it can get as high as 117˚F). The deck and pool area are separate from the house and are built on an existing concrete pad. The couple opted for composite deck ideas because they felt it would be more heat resistant.
Depending on the number of guests per week, the pool is cleaned, vacuumed, and scrubbed up to two times during that period. Chemicals and a filtration system maintain the water so that it rarely needs to be drained, which helps with the drought crisis in California. Since water evaporates, they top it up as needed.
As the owner of a rental, Olivia understands the reponsibility of safety. 'Research local and county laws and requirements,' she says. 'Stock tank pools may have the same safety guidelines as standard above-ground or inground pools, such as signage or barriers and fences on the property.'
3. Surround a stock tank pool with planting for shade
X-ray technologist Jeremy Batsche, an avid gardener whose produce-filled yard is in downtown San Antonio, Texas, has won awards for its innovative design. On his 5,500-square-foot urban plot, Batsche is growing 14 fruit trees and three raised beds that give him, his wife, and three sons hundreds of pounds of fresh produce each year.
Not surprisingly, when the family decided to install a cowboy pool, Jeremy carefully planned its location. 'I wanted everything to be cohesive, functional, and to offer a certain experience each time we stepped into the space,' he says.
He used 120-plus-year-old brick from chimneys removed. The patio paving ideas are designed to showcase the antique brick and provide a level ground for the 8-by-3-foot pool, which creates the look and feel of an outdoor bathroom. Jeremy also considered the amount of shade the pool would receive – necessary for sizzling-hot San Antonio summers. The pool stays reasonably cool in its position under the canopy of a fig tree and bamboo.
Recently, Jeremy started covering the pool after each use, which has been 'a game-changer in keeping the water clean,' he says, adding, 'I just put a clear tarp over the top and fasten it around the top edge with a nylon cord. It’s not aesthetically perfect, but it does the trick.'
4. Add a simple raised deck next to the pool
Poppy Pousson was thrilled that the townhouse she bought in Beaumont, Texas, came with a hot tub. 'But it’s entirely too hot and humid for a hot tub in Southeast Texas,' she explains.
Learning about stock tanks from a co-worker, Poppy browsed through stock tank pool ideas online, incorporating design elements she liked and felt would work for her outdoor space. She hired a contractor who leveled the pool’s foundation on a sloping patio, using 4x4s and pea gravel for a smooth surface. He built a raised decking surround that is not attached to the pool in case the stock tank ever needs to be replaced.
The deck is a mix of wood and composite. The surface and stairs are composite, while the sides and interior structure are natural wood. The contractor left one side open for easy access. Cedar planks run vertically along the outside and are fastened with metal bands attached under the deck for a clean look. The natural wood is stained and treated, and water sealant was used for the cedar planks.
Poppy finds the pool’s size ideal for two and likes the easy pool maintenance. 'I love being outside tending my plants. It’s wonderful to have a cocktail and a cool pool to chill in.'
For scorching days, she recommends leaving room in the pool to add cold water and not fill it up to the brim. 'Otherwise, water spills out when you get in.'
5. Paint the stock tank to match your color scheme
During the sweltering summer, Blakely Trettenero realized she needed to research the best above ground pool and add one to her plot if she wanted to lure guests to her vacation rental in downtown Fort Meyers, Florida. A stock tank proved to be the answer.
While she prepared for the project by reading articles and watching videos, she underestimated the amount of work it would take. Blakely removed sod from the side of the house, leveled the ground, positioned the pool, then carefully spaced and leveled large concrete pavers. Dark gravel was added between each paver to add interest to the patio ideas.
A Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef and food and travel blogger, Blakely added new skills to her growing list. She painted the tank's exterior a bright white to coordinate with the pavers and white vinyl cord-wrapped Acapulco chairs. A retro scalloped patio umbrella in royal blue reflects the blue of the water and sky. She treats the water with food-grade hydrogen peroxide.
She researched the metal-painting process before diving in. She removed all stickers and adhesive, then wiped the exterior of the pool with paint thinner. She used an electric sander to rough up the outside, saturated it with 30 percent white vinegar and let it set for an hour, then hosed and dried it. After that, she added a metal primer, then about three coats of metal paint. 'I know it sounds like a lot, but I feel it’s worth it,' she says.
6. Make a stock tank pool the focal point of your yard
Being unable to visit local beaches or pools on Long Island during the pandemic motivated Gabrielle McClarnon and her family to build something fun in their Holbrook, New York, backyard. They opted for a stock tank pool and painted it yellow to match other outdoor elements in their garden color scheme.
Gabrielle sketched the design while her husband and son built the structure. The McClarnons used primer and a spray gun for outdoor paint to paint the pool. Next was a freestanding deck to slip into the pool instead of stepping over its side. The deck and a privacy fence are pressure-treated wood, with poles painted black to contrast with the wood.
The position of the pool and deck in the McClarnons’ yard makes 5pm the golden hour for coaxing her family and friends into the pool. 'It’s an eye-catcher,' she says. 'Anytime someone visits, I get lots of questions about the pool, then they are hunting for their own.'
7. Locate the right spot in your yard
Supply issues in 2020 made stock tanks hard to find. Jenny Ingram’s husband, Paul, suggested looking on Facebook Marketplace. He found a just-posted listing of an 8-foot-diameter tank. A few days later, the couple drove from Poulsbo, Washington (a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle) to Portland, Oregon, to pick up the tank. 'We really scored,' says Jenny. 'The pool came with a pump, holes drilled, and a cover.'
The couple cleared branches from old bushes, leveled the ground with sand, and installed the tank using river rock and existing flat slate stones. Near a Rowan tree that produces colorful red fruits, the pool sits among other galvanized containers that house herbs, vegetables, and flowers. They added wind chimes, solar path and outdoor string light ideas, an umbrella and a selection of the best pool floats to make the spot inviting.
8. Extend a deck to accommodate a stock tank pool
When Sheilah and Daniel Huckabee bought a stock tank for their Winterville, Georgia, backyard, they extended the existing decking ideas to fit the pool. What looks like a step is actually another tier to the deck. The round tank pool is niched partly on the 'old' deck and partly on the new, which provides easy access or a ledge on which the Huckabees can sit and soak their feet.
Like many home projects, the Huckabees’ outdoor entertaining space started as a small deck and grew over time. They first bought a gazebo and built a deck around it. Then came another tier built around the stock tank. Pressure-treated wood and rebar were used for the deck railing ideas. A wood skirt around the bottom hides the pool pump and ground beneath the pool. The pump is accessible via a built-in trap door. Posts were left high so the Huckabees could string outdoor lights and hang plants, and rebar was left on the railing for an industrial look,
The Huckabees’ pool accommodates up to eight people comfortably. 'We enjoy the convenience of not having to go to a public pool just to cool off,' says Sheilah.
9. Keep it simple with a bathtub-style stock tank
Most weekends will find Amanda and David Roy kicking back in their tank-for-two with drinks and making vacation plans. 'We’ve honestly booked multiple trips sitting in the tank deciding where to go,' says Amanda, of Boynton Beach, Florida. The latest on their bucket list: the Grand Canyon’s Havasu Falls in Arizona.
The pool deck is just a few steps from the Roys’ master bedroom patio door. The couple built a deck, light pole and chairs out of treated lumber. To keep the chairs from floating to the top, they added some tent weights, mounted stainless hasps on the chairs and filled the weights with sand and water. The weights are strapped to the chairs with industrial-strength Velcro. They also laid wood trays across the tub for drinks, citronella, and laptops or phones for travel planning. A lively grapevine ball lamp hangs overhead.
'I feel it’s an ongoing project,' says Amanda. 'We’ll constantly tweak things as we find new accessories or come up with new design ideas.'
10. Make sure the ground is level
For a second home in Galveston, Texas, ER doctor Scott Wiesenborn and his wife, Amanda, wanted a stock tank project that was easy. The recent purchase, which has the look and feel of an outdoor bathtub, sits just off the back porch of their charming yellow clapboard house.
They took time and effort to level the ground, something echoed by many stock tank pool owners, and filled the space with crushed granite. The backyard pool is surrounded by mature flowering shrubs and Adirondack chairs.
A few weeks into the project, they’ve added remote-control string lights. Right now, the Wisenborns are happy with the standalone look of their stock tank pool ideas but might add an integrated deck in the future.
11. Create a fun, retro vibe
Susan and Trent Dyer own Sulfur Ridge in Bloomington Springs, Tennessee, an eclectically decorated resort that provides a vintage glamping experience.
One of their rentals is an eclectically decorated treehouse with a purple bathtub, bed-size swing, and a jukebox, among other furnishings. The retro fun can be found at the adjacent Shasta Camp, where three reproduction early 1960s Shasta trailers share a firepit, outdoor game area, and stock tank pools with floating flamingoes.
The Dyers are DIYers who clearly enjoy hunting for, repairing, and creating additions to their rentals. Naturally, the decking cover ideas are their own creation, and they also painted the pools with the Sulfur Ridge logo and more flamingoes.
12. Paint a stunning backdrop for your stock tank
Ashley Black’s family has lots of space for a stock tank pool in the backyard of their New Windsor, Maryland, home. Going for a simpler setup, they leveled the ground in the selected spot with stone dust and positioned the pool. She cut two holes in the side of the metal to connect an Intex 1500 filter. A small deck big enough to perch on was built from pressure-treated 4x5 posts, with 2x8s and 2x4s for framing.
To give it a tropical garden vibe for summer, Ashley created a fun graphic on the pool fence by taping off three sections and painting white, red, and yellow triangular shapes, using Heirloom Traditions paint. It's a great option for screening off the pool, plus it would work just as well as a hot tub privacy idea too.
She added a large cantilever umbrella, outdoor cushions for the deck, and some tropical-inspired container gardening ideas. A dry river bed of stones runs beneath the pool.
Ashley's stock tank pool setup and build have been popular on their TikTok channel, with one video alone capturing more than 7 million views.
13. Design a stock tank setup with a Mid-Century influence
Fresh from an interior remodel, Jesse Ligo and Brandon Ginsberg turned their attention to the backyard of their Los Angeles house. Having designed the patio, Jesse focused on a freestanding deck that could hold a stock tank pool. She wanted to sit on the deck’s edge with her feet in the water and include space to sunbathe and dine.
She sketched the design, then hired a team that 'took my plans and brought them to life.' She and her husband painted the tank and installed the heater and filter, tasks they found easy.
Her design blends with the other Midcentury Modern pool landscaping ideas, including square concrete pavers, a red/orange vintage Malm fireplace, and Acapulco chairs. It's now the perfect setting for a pool party.
14. Add some shade to your stock tank pool area
Inspired by a friend’s STP, Melissa Wyckstandt of Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, created and built her own pool design. Previously, Melissa had built two large floating decks with privacy walls and was confident she could design a pool deck that would work nicely in her yard. A plant lover, she wanted to incorporate gardens around the space.
Integral to her design was concealing the deck’s underbelly. She added extra wood to hide the space from all sides. Melissa then laid a herringbone pattern halfway on both of the long edges. A final touch was an extra-deep built-in bench.
Tropical plants are her favorite part of the deck, which make the space feel like an oasis and add privacy and serenity. Among her favorites are Kaleidoscope butterfly bush, Strawberry Vanilla hydrangea, Black Beauty colocasia, dahlias, orange milkweed, cannas, sedums, speedwell, Rose Mallow, Elephant ear, banana plants, and ginger.
To cool the pool, Melisaa opted for some inexpensive shade sail ideas supported by poles. 'It’s way over-engineered because I over-design things,' she says. 'This deck is so sturdy that if a tornado blew through, my house would likely be gone but the decks would still be there!'
15. Weave it into your garden design
Michelle Glass’s half-acre property in Franklin, Tennessee, includes raised garden beds, a chicken coop, and a garden shed. 'The aesthetic of a stock tank pool fits right in with our landscaping ideas,' says the realtor and interior designer for Home Nashville.
The family designed the pool area themselves but hired someone to dig a courtyard for gravel, which the Glasses installed. Anchored by an existing pergola wall, the pool area features stone pavers, lounge chairs, and planters. A pump, filter, slow-release chlorine, and a skimmer keep the pool clean.
Michelle estimates the pool and equipment cost about $800. 'Not bad for the use we’ve gotten out of it,' she says, adding, 'I like the look of it rather than other above-ground pool ideas.'
How deep are stock tank pools?
Most stock tanks are two feet deep, enough to supply water for farm animals. With this in mind, most larger tanks get wider rather than deeper. A tank that is 10 feet in diameter holds about 1,100 gallons of water. Other popular stock tank sizes include 3x2, 6x2, and 8x2. Stock tank swimming pool shapes are round or oval.
Bottomless stock tank pools feature depths of 26, 33, and 44 inches, according to StockTankPool.net. Because they are made like a cylinder, without a bottom, a watertight seal or barrier will need to be created. Solutions include reinforced concrete slabs, bentonite clay, or even pool liners,
Jennifer Ohs of STP 4 ATL suggests the following formula to determine the size of tank you should buy:
- An 8-foot round stock tank pool accommodates one full-size inflatable float and can fit 4-6 sitting adults.
- A 9-foot stock tank pool can tightly fit two full-sized floats, 2-3 smaller floats, and 6-8 sitting adults.
- A 10-foot-diameter stock tank pool can fit two full-size floats and 8-10 sitting adults.
How long do stock tank pools last?
Stock tanks date back to the 1930s, when drought and clouds of soil during the Dust Bowl rendered overworked land and topsoil an ecological disaster. The U.S. Soil Conservation Service (SCS) promoted tanks to ranchers as life-saving necessities for their animals and land, according to Texas Monthly.
Unless your ancestors passed down stock tanks along with Bibles, it’s hard to gauge the lifespan of a steel tank. While their survivability is limited, stock tanks are built to withstand the elements and some abuse. Plastic or PVC stock tanks are lightweight, but they don’t offer the durability of a galvanized model and can become brittle or degrade with sun exposure.
Galvanized steel tanks are available in different gauges or thicknesses, usually 20 to 22. Proper maintenance and water treatment will extend the life of a stock tank pool. Jennifer Ohs recommends the following maintenance schedule to extend a pool’s life:
- Daily: Run the pump at least two hours each day. Cover to keep out debris.
- Weekly: Skim and vacuum the pool to ensure it stays clear of debris. It's worth investing in one of the best pool vacuums to make light work of this task.
- Bi-weekly: Add two 1-inch chlorine tablets to a chlorine float (leaving holes closed). Two weeks is average, but owners with larger pools should replenish as the tablets dissolve.
- Monthly: Remove and clean or replace your filter cartridge if you have a filter pump. This may need to be done more often if the pool gets extra dirty or the pump has low water flow.
How do you look after a stock tank pool in winter?
If you live in a region that doesn’t experience freezing, Jennifer Ohs recommends leaving the water in your tank during the winter, as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Her suggestions for how to winterize a pool are as follows:
- Close the plunger valves to keep the water in the pool and disconnect the pump.
- Allow water to drain from the pump and store it in a dry place.
- Remove the chlorine float.
- Cover your pool and forget about it until spring, unless you use it as a hot tub.
Lisa has a B.A. from California Polytechnic State University, Pomona, and a certificate in landscape design. She's written about gardening and outdoor living since 2008 for various websites and magazines, including About.com, TheSpruce, and Laguna Beach Magazine. Lisa and her family spend their spare time restoring their Midcentury Modern home in southern California.
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