Your Home Outdoors

Why a Backyard Stock Tank Pool Is a Very Good Idea

If these 9 ideas don't inspire you to get one, we're not sure what will.

July  9, 2020
Photo by Hey Wanderer

Unless you have a huge backyard, significant funds (seriously—thousands or tens of thousands of dollars), and the time to keep it pristine, installing a pool is not achievable. At least, that’s what my parents told me growing up, every time I wished for one on a hot summer day. For the pool-less like us however, there were other creative, pack-it-away-when-you’re-done means of keeping cool that were, let’s say, more nostalgic (and fun): slip-n-slides, kiddie pools, the good old sprinkler.

Lately, though, everywhere I look, I’ve been seeing another alternative that’s a little closer to the real thing: stock tank pools. First, there was one on the Instagram story of a friend, charmingly set onto a patio with fairy lights strung above. Then a second. And a third.

What were all these stock tank pools, I wondered, and how could I get one?

Stock tanks, as I discovered, are made from galvanized metal, are round or sometimes oval, and used to hold water for livestock. (They’re basically “oversized metal buckets,” as one article puts it.) But quarantine ingenuity—and the need to make our own backyards our vacation spots, too—has popularized another use for them: as tiny plunge pools. Stock tank pools might seem like outsized blow-up pools (they’re only about two feet deep, so no diving and not a lot of swimming), but there’s still a lot to love. They offer a place to splash, lounge around, float, and cool off for a fraction of the cost and space of a normal pool (they come in sizes from about three feet to six, eight, or even 10 feet across). And they’re a lot easier to install: All you need is some sturdy and level ground to set it. Worried about keeping it clean and inviting? Best to retrofit it with a filter and pump. (This site has a pretty good overview.)

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I put a 10' stock tank 2 years ago. Love it! I built a flagstone patio around it, use a 1 1/2 hp pool filter. Clean and clear! ”
— John J.

And stock tank pools are a lot better looking than their origins suggest. True, they were originally designed for agricultural reasons, not to "look good" but that's exactly what I like about them: their simple, minimalist look. Leave them bare-boned, paint them, or build a deck around them—they'll look pretty good no matter what. If I ever move permanently out of New York City, I just might get one myself.

A corner of designer Bri Moysa’s cement patio becomes a pool deck thanks to a stock tank pool (painted black) and a mini wrap-around deck. Note the hooks on the fence for keeping towels handy.

This Instagrammer’s minimal stock tank pool is softened with a couple of potted plants, no involved landscaping needed.

Photo by Margaret Wright for Sunwoven

No need to hem yourself in with any one pool vibe, either: Erin Barrett, designer and owner of Charleston-based Sunwoven, paints her stock tank pool every summer, which we think is such a fun idea. We are fans of this year's choice: a serene pale turquoise, but here are a few shots from summers past.

A petite deck built around the curve of the pool via @stonewayswimclub in Austin that's just big enough for two loungers (and provides a place to sit for those who just want to dangle their feet in). Or you could have a rubber duck for company.

Stock tank pools can be set in the ground, too, like this mini oasis spotted on Stock Tank Pool Authority. An umbrella, cacti, and lounger complete the picture.

A bright stock tank setup via Andria Garcia. Word is that the metal keeps water cool, even on summer days. What would keep it ever cooler? A vine-like climbing plant grown to cover that beautiful trellised roof.

Proof that these pools look pretty darn good left undone: this white one in a super-minimal desert setup via Joshua Tree-based wedding photographer Victoria Bonvicini.

Going really tiny? This one, spotted on Uniquely Taylor Made, is just big enough for a pool float. For all the details on how it came together, head here.

A teeny stock tank pool via Stocktankstore—outfitted with an ad-hoc outdoor shower setup and set in a secluded spot—becomes an extra refreshing place to spend a summer afternoon.

What are you doing to make your backyard an oasis this summer? Tell us in the comments.

Or, there's this...

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Christie
  • Lzzyrbby
  • arcane54
  • Michele
  • Jackie Pearson
    Jackie Pearson
Annie Quigley

Written by: Annie Quigley



Christie July 27, 2020
Soooo that’s what it is called! All these years we called it the horse trough 🐴 We had that trough through my childhood and then my kids and our neighbors kids swam in it. Warm and fun memories.
Lzzyrbby July 20, 2020
Also in the process of galvanization the steel is coated in zinc, which naturally inhibits growth of algae, moss, mildew and fungus, must be a big plus for a pool!
arcane54 July 16, 2020
We used to have a hot tub in a stock tank. We’d just build a small fire under it. It helps to have a wooden lathe covering the bottom so you don’t burn your bum. On party nights, we’d hold synchronized swimming performances. Ah, the days....
Michele July 15, 2020
What can be used as a cover?
Jackie P. July 12, 2020
I've used stock tanks for planters, drilling holes in the bottom & then using galvanized spray to help delay rust. And also have used them for water features / fountains. So far I have never found one to be smooth enough on the inside to not be worried about getting a bad cut or scratch if I were not careful & needed to reach in. Do people sand the inside or treat it with special paint to avoid cuts?
Lisa A. July 12, 2020
Seems like a great idea, but doesn't the water heat up due to the metal? How do you drain it?
Tamara July 12, 2020
When we had horses and a stock tank, squirrels would get in and not be able to get out and would drown. We added a screen over the side, into the water so they could climb out.
Arati M. July 15, 2020
Oh no, the poor things. Glad you took care of that...phew!
John J. July 11, 2020
I put a 10' stock tank 2 years ago. Love it!
I built a flagstone patio around it, use a 1 1/2 hp pool filter. Clean and clear!

rlsalvati July 11, 2020
We had one of these when I was a kid and it was so much fun! And yes, you do have to supervise kids around water. Unless you grew up in the sixties and seventies, when we were allowed to run wild from one backyard hazard to another around the neighborhood all summer. Fun times.
Kellison July 10, 2020
These small landscapes are attractive, but they all look like drowning hazards to me: pools without any sort of safety fencing, alarms, etc, or even steps or stairs for an escape route. Be mindful how easily a young child can drown, even in a small amount of water, and be sure that no such child (even a neighbor's or friend's child) has access before considering any such installation.
Lisa R. July 9, 2020
How do you empty it out for fresh water? Seems pretty heavy
Arati M. July 10, 2020
:) You'd need a filter pump.
Lorne S. July 10, 2020
They come with a drain plug in them.
Juliean B. July 9, 2020
I put one in my yard this spring. POLY plastic, 8ft diameter with a wrap around deck. Love it! Using a sand filter.
Linda W. July 9, 2020
We’ve had ours built into our deck for 30 years. Love it!!
latenac July 9, 2020
They're pretty but how does the metal not heat up the water to a painful degree?
Arati M. July 9, 2020
Aren't they so pretty? I believe it's the galvanized steel that keeps the water cool in the summer...Personally, I'd also pair it with some shade.
Andrew B. July 9, 2020
The earth is a pretty constant 55° year round so being surrounded by dirt and dug into the ground should help to keep it cool. And covering it up when not in use would help. And it will naturally cool off in the evening as well. The deeper you dig it, you cooler the water would be....