Move over, above-ground and kiddie pools. Stock tank pools—those round, shallow, shiny galvanized steel pools that dominate sites like Instagram and Pinterest—are pushing aside more traditional alternatives to the standard in-ground swimming pools. They might be part of the farmhouse trend, industrial chic, desert bohemian, or a do-it-yourselfer's challenge. They're known as cowboy pools, hillbilly pools, trough pools, and are seen everywhere from urban rooftops to Texas backyards to glamping spots in the California desert. DIYers add decks, sink them into the ground, and come up with all kinds of creative solutions to personalize the pools and make them work for their outdoor spaces and lifestyles.
The intended use for stock tanks is to fill them with water on farms and ranches for livestock—cattle, horses, goats, sheep, etc. Some stock tankers say their parents or grandparents used them as makeshift pools since they were lying around the farm anyway. Smaller versions of those galvanized receptacles were used for what was known in the early 20th century as the Saturday Night Bath, a weekly ritual for rural residents who lacked plumbing, hot running water (or just running water), and/or a sewer system. To properly clean and shampoo for church the next day, pots of water were heated on the stove, then poured into a washtub for a cramped but warm bath.
Enjoy a look at a variety of stock tank pool designs—along with tips and how-to's—and get inspired!
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McMinnville, Oregon-based Matt and Darci Haney are owners of a design/build firm called MD Haney & Co., through which they renovate homes, refinish furniture, build custom cabinetry, decorate, offer classes and workshops, and even have an online shop. They enjoy their stock tank pool with their two daughters in a simple space they created with smooth stones, a wooden stool for access, and clean, clear water.Continue to 2 of 31 below.
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Dana and David Morris got by with an inflatable kiddie pool to beat the Houston heat for one summer, but, come the following spring, the couple decided to step up for a tank pool. In their blog, Dana + David, they chronicle the adventures of buying, transporting, and finding the perfect spot in their backyard. They also include detailed photos for installing plumbing for a filter, fixtures, and little extras to buy (that yellow rubber duck is actually a sanitizing dispenser).Continue to 3 of 31 below.
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While shopping for supplies at their local farm store, Megan and Aaron Austin's three children spied the stock tanks. "A pool!" they begged. The Austins did some quick mental measuring, realized it would fit, and added the tank to their order.
They quickly found the perfect spot for the pool: in the middle of a garden with raised beds that is fenced off to keep it safe from animals (including the family dog). Positioned near a water faucet, the tank is surrounded by smooth river rocks. To keep the water clean, the kids rinse their feet in a shallow bucket before entering the pool. When the water looks dirty, the Austins siphon it with a short hose and water the nearby garden beds. The siphon also works like a vacuum to help remove debris from the bottom of the pool. The tank leans slightly for easy draining when they don't use the siphon.
"This system works very well for us, except when the kids have friends over to play," explains Megan, whose website, Ninnescah Made, offers solutions to modern-day homesteading. The Austins have tried vinegar and spa chemicals for cleanups, but after heavy use, replacing the water is the best solution. Would they recommend a tank pool? "Yes!" Megan continues. "We've had many hours of entertainment from such an inexpensive stock tank. Summertime in our area tends to be upward of 100 degrees most days and the cool water is refreshing."Continue to 4 of 31 below.
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A Splashing SuccessContinue to 5 of 31 below.
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Tropical Ohio Hideaway
Michael and Cali Wartko of Akron, Ohio, love to travel in their spare time. But when they're home in the summer, they hang out with their dogs in the stock tank pool, which they glammed-up by pouring a gravel foundation and building a wooden deck to support the tank and keep it level. To maintain it, the Wartkos connected an above-ground pool pump and filter and shock the pool weekly.Continue to 6 of 31 below.
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Lots of Extras
Those hot Georgia summers got James and Kylie Case Wesner to consider installing a pool in their yard. Then Kylie found a how-to on Pinterest for stock tank pools. "I thought that was a better option for us and our two dogs without doing a full-scale pool," says James. He dug a hole to sink the tank, then leveled the surrounding ground. He also dug a small pit nearby to house an above-ground filter and connected the hoses to a pond waterfall tub. After realizing their dogs had difficulty accessing the pool, they built a wooden submersible bench, which made it easier for both humans and pets.
After the tank pool was level, the Wesners built a pergola by sinking four 12-foot 6 x 6-inch posts into the ground. They also installed a retractable shade for intensely hot summer days. Once the pool and waterfall pond were positioned, they paved the space with flagstone and mortared them in place. Recent additions include a fully filtered and dog-accessible mini pool with string lights and plans for adding surround speakers (James is a multimedia producer).Continue to 7 of 31 below.
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Jen Steele Payne, an Indiana mother of four boys who is into interior design and yoga, dug a hole in her yard and hooked up a filter and saltwater system to customize her pool. "Of course, I wanted it in-ground," she says. "Digging through tree roots and wheeling dirt 50 yards away–I prefer a shovel to a gym any day."Continue to 8 of 31 below.
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Missouri mom Carrie Ellegard wisely keeps her children and their friends entertained yet close by with a trough pool placed on a side patio. Ellegard made sure there was plenty of seating and tables to give her a place to watch them, umbrellas to keep everyone cool, and snacks and refreshments on hand so she doesn't have to leave the scene.Continue to 9 of 31 below.
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Joshua Tree Retreat
The hippie, bohemian, festival lifestyle is reflected at the Joshua Tree Yacht Club, an Airbnb in the California desert that offers short or long-term rentals of vintage Airstream trailers with decks and stock tank pools. Owned by longtime fashion photographer Sasha Eisenman, the the 8-foot pools are like a gleaming oasis in the desert.
Eisenman bought his Joshua Tree property in 2010 and added a 1973 Airstream and stock tank. "One of the things that drew me to the stock tank was precisely that, aesthetically, it looks so good next to the Airstream, all that silver together, shining in the sun," he says.Continue to 10 of 31 below.
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Little Farm, Big City
Kathryne likes to fix up her cottage and has a flair for decorating, as evidenced by her Instagram account, Little Farm Big City. Her stock tank is tucked in a corner of the yard amongst raised beds of vegetables and seating for watching the kids.Continue to 11 of 31 below.
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Texan Katie Mansfield writes about decorating, recipes, DIYing, and the farmhouse lifestyle in her blog, Let's Add Sprinkles. Back in 2015, she was a pioneer of stock tank pools and offers many tips on design and safety. Among them:
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- If the metal sides get hot, give them a splash with a hose.
- If the water isn't treated with chemicals, clean out debris in the pool by watering nearby plants.
- A decorative tent-style net, like IKEA's Solig, keeps mosquitoes away.
- Four people can fit in a 6-feet-diagonal x 2-feet-high tank.
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Kristina and Wayne create handcrafted wall art, wood shelves, nursery decor, and gifts from their backyard studio in Oregon, which they sell through their online shop, Dream State. When the temperatures climb, they enjoy refreshing in the trough pool they updated in 2015 with a pea gravel patio, potted flowers, and a wooden deck for easy access. The crafty couple drilled a hole for a water spigot at the bottom edge of the pool for drainage and another hole to hook up a small pool filter.
They keep it sanitized with sea salt and baking soda and when the water gets murky, it's drained and then refilled. It only takes about 1 to 3 days to warm up, depending on the temperature (probably less in warmer regions). During the winter it's empty and the spigot is left open. Following a thorough cleaning in spring, it's good to go for another season.Continue to 13 of 31 below.
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The Real Thing
Dry land, a windmill, and a wide and shallow livestock tank filled with water for the animals are featured in this beautiful scene. Tyler Pierce, who writes the blog, Single Ingredient Life, and who "occasionally rides his bike in places where I shouldn't," according to his Instagram profile, was inspired by this stock tank pool.Continue to 14 of 31 below.
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When Nashville-based best friends Savannah and Casey set up a stock tank pool the previous year, they thought it might be nice to just sit around the pool with their feet dangling in. But not on that uncomfortable edge! "Can't blame a stock tank—it's not really what it was made for!" they wrote in their blog, Hey Wanderer. "Anyway, we decided to build a bench this year. It has been fantastic! Being able to sit on the edge with your feet in the water means you'll be using the heck out of your pool."
The DIY duo reveal instructions for the building the bench, along with all sorts of other things in their popular blog.Continue to 15 of 31 below.
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Concord, California, residents Brandon and Ivana Scott created a nectar spot in their backyard for their family to relax, have fun, and watch their herbs and vegetables grow.Continue to 16 of 31 below.
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Pool for a Shipping Crate House
Lacee Duke is an Austin, Texas, artist who used her creative talents to build herself a house made from a shipping crate and a stock tank pool she equipped with a sand filter. Located in an area known as Slaughter Creek Acres, Duke says of her new digs (which she refers to as Baby Shippy): "I'm digging the relation of making a habitable living space out of a once-barren and harsh environment."Continue to 17 of 31 below.
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A separate patio was built to house a stock tank pool environment that includes an electric and solar-powered umbrella, tropical plants, a funky cherub statue, and pea gravel for the backyard, owned by Tara Joie Beavers of Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Tara is a blogger who lives in an old farmhouse and sells vintage and eclectic items on her Etsy shop, Rascals Rarities.Continue to 18 of 31 below.
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Paradise in the Deep South
Since the family dog often takes dips in the pool, engineer Kenneth Cardon regularly cleans the filter of the above-ground pool pump he attached to his stock tank. To maintain pH levels, Cardon uses chlorine tablets and occasionally shocks it with liquid chlorine. His biggest challenge: keeping leaves from large oak trees and Spanish moss out of the pool. Cardon bought an oversized 10-foot round pool cover for around $15 on Amazon. For winter maintenance, he came up with the idea of using a queen-sized air mattress to float on the water, which keeps the cover from sinking or collecting debris from the oaks.
"The problem-solving and low cost of all of it has been intriguing for me," says Cardon. "Plus, my black lab thinks it's great."Continue to 19 of 31 below.
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It's hard work to run the organic Infinity View Farm in Kentucky with 44 animals and beehives. So at the end of the day, Erin Smith and her husband, Jason Redmon, relax in their 8-foot stock tank pool. "It's a great way to close the day," says Smith. Naturally, the plastic-free farmers use very little, if any, chemicals in the tank. Redmon runs the manual skimmer daily to keep it clean and it only needs to be filled once each season.Continue to 20 of 31 below.
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Summerville Garden Pool
Hawaiian natives and high school sweethearts Jennifer Panehal and Chris Pelayo bought a historic 1850s farmhouse in Summerville, South Carolina, which they write about on their blog, Flowertown Charms. The married DIYers set up a garden pool with an old-fashioned pump-style spigot—all detailed with images in their blog. Be sure and check out their menagerie of goats, big fluffy Pyrenees dogs, chickens, and cats.Continue to 21 of 31 below.
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When Charles Crespi moved from a Boston home on a large lot with an in-ground pool to a much-smaller home in Las Vegas, he realized that building a new pool would be too costly. Inspired by a stock tank pool he saw on Pinterest, Crespi went to a local farm supply store and bought an oval model—8-feet long by 2-feet high and capable of holding 360 gallons of water.
He added an Intex cannister filter that he attached to the tank with a pool filter hose, then hung the return line on the back of the tank. He plugged it into a timer and ran the filter for a few hours each day. Other than mild evaporation from the Las Vegas heat, he says it was maintenance free. "Overall, I did this whole project for about $300, including flagstone and a few LED solar lights around it," says Crespi.
The DIYer recently sold his Vegas house. "The buyer really liked the pool, so I sold him that too; it stayed with the house," says Crespi. "I'm currently planning a new water feature project at my new house in Vegas now that I have a larger yard."Continue to 22 of 31 below.
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Neon DreamsContinue to 23 of 31 below.
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A Touch of Mod
Four large concrete pavers, some stumps, an umbrella, and a vintage butterfly chair give a mod vibe to the patio and tank pool pad at the Los Angeles home of set designer Patrick Dunn-Baker and Erika Leon.Continue to 24 of 31 below.
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Protection and Privacy
When it gets hot in Gainesville, Texas, the owner of The Red Pony Boutique likes to cool off in privacy in her trough pool with a lattice-top wood screen, umbrella in a galvanized container, and some colorful towels. The cover helps keep the pool debris-free and is a smart, safe idea when children are around.Continue to 25 of 31 below.
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Made in the Shade
Deborah Adams is a real estate agent in Phoenix with an eye for design. She dressed-up her own backyard stock tank with a ceramic stool and lanterns, float, poolside chair, offset umbrella, and some portable spa steps.Continue to 26 of 31 below.
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That orange padded rim is made from pool noodles, which picks up the orange table and striped umbrella. Owner Mark Ferrito of New York built a raised deck for his stock tank pool, which is enjoyed by his family, friends, and dog.Continue to 27 of 31 below.
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Julia Restin found a spot for her pool between the lawn and mulch and added pavers to make sure no bark chips get in the pool. To add personal style and comfort, she added noodles on the edge (nice for leaning against), a fun wrought iron candelabra, hanging glass ornaments, and a skull.Continue to 28 of 31 below.
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School teacher Jamie Stephens lives with her husband and their two children in a pretty house she loves to decorate and photograph inside and out. A friend helped her haul the tank home on a trailer. The pool is a big hit with children, who find there's plenty of room to actually swim.Continue to 29 of 31 below.
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Salem, Oregon, mom Deborah D'Amico likes to tackle DIY projects on her own, including a mini-forest in her backyard with enchanted string lights. Her son, Gianni, enjoys the tank pool for a quick splash or relaxation with a ride-on inflatable.Continue to 30 of 31 below.
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A 1940s-built house in Richmond, Virginia, is the perfect setting for vintage outdoor decor that includes a "hillbilly hot tub," string lights, a pink ice cream parlor-style dining set, and a hippie-era hammock.Continue to 31 of 31 below.
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Arnold, Eleanor. Party Lines, Pumps and Privies. Indiana University Press, 1994.