If a pool just doesn't fit in your budget or your yard, a stock tank pool is such a fun solution for kids (and adults) to dip into a cool pool on a hot day. We've had ours for many years and I wanted to share what we've learned.
How long will it last?
I feel like plastic or inflatable kiddie pools last no more than 1-2 summers, which I hate because of the waste added to landfills and money thrown away for a handful of months of use. After using this galvanized Hastings Equity stock tank from April to September for the past 5 or so years, we haven't seen any rust or wear. We keep it stored upside down in our yard in the off seasons.
How do I keep it clean?
If you've used kiddie pools, you know they get gross after a couple of days from leaf drop, mosquito larvae, algae, etc. Buy a stiff bristled broom to clean the bottom of the pool, regardless of if you plan to fill it up and dump it or if you install a pump in it. Every year before you get it set up, you'll want to give it a good scrub. There is a valve towards the bottom of the tank to unscrew to release the water. Consider where this will exit before you fill the tank (because it's too heavy to move once filled!) so you can either water a planting bed at the end of the summer or not send a muddy deluge to a path or patio.
If you diligently clean the pool with a pool skimmer net (no need for a long pole) and take it out and hose it off, the filters can last every 2 to 3 weeks. If you don't use a skimmer or wash off the filter, it will need to be replaced every week. So get some extras. It just depends on how much continuous debris finds its way into the pool.
Chlorine is critical to keeping the balance of the water so that it's clear. We use these chlorine tablets (3 at a time) in a floating chlorine dispenser, taking it out and turning off the pump when someone gets in. We've used a powdered chlorine in the past but it took a lot of testing. This is method with the tablets has been much easier. Since it's a chlorine system, we have not used a salt water system or sand pump, but would love someone to chime in in the comments if you have knowledge of different systems!
We bought this pump and these pool filters from Amazon.
At the end of the season, you can store it on its side or preferably upside down if its staying outside (if you have the room). Detach the pump on via the 1 1/4" union (see notes below) and store the pump in a shed or garage for longevity.
How do I install a pump?
There's not a lot of detailed info on the internet about how to install a pump on a stock tank pool, nor is there a standard kit available, so we've figured out this system through trial and error. The PVC connectors and tubes are from Home Depot, and we've played around with how it connects each year, trying to find something that doesn't leak. So far this pump has done a good job, and it's the second one we've tried. I'm going to try to make it easy on you so that you just have to click on the links and create a shopping cart at Home Depot and Amazon. You'll drill 2 holes in the side of the tank with THIS 1.25" hole-saw bit, and install the following:
1. 1" to 3/4" threaded reducer bushing (x 2: one for each hole of inlet and outlet of pump)
2. 1 1/4" rubber washer (x2 for each hole)
3. 1 1/4" to 1" reducer bushing
4. 1 1/4" union (to disconnect pump at the end of the season)
5. 1 1/4" sch 40 PVC pipe (cut to 4 - 6")
6. 2" to 1 1/4" reducer bushing (threaded only on inside)
7. 2" PVC male adapter
8. 1/8" washer made from rubber sheet (x 2 handcut using inside of Intex tube as stencil)
9. Intex Pump (same link as above) comes with flexible tubing
We installed the inlet and outlet about halfway up, about 2' apart. These dimensions are arbitrary though.
All threaded connections need to be wrapped with teflon tape and be careful not to over-tighten. All other connections need to be glued using PVC primer and cement.
Here's a pump set-up sent in by a client - they did a cleaner job on than us and hopefully you can get an idea of what they did from the close-ups!
What size stock tank should I get?
We have the 5' Hastings Equity stock tank (green label) purchased at Callahan's General Store in Austin, TX. There are larger stock tank options like 6' to 10' (and are all 2' tall), but there are a couple of things to consider the larger you go. I am 5' 6", and can flip the 5' tank on its side on my own. We've used larger tanks - my in-laws bought a 7' tank at one point - but even as a fit and stubbornly self-sufficient person, I couldn't physically lift it up to a standing position to clean it. With help, two people can tilt a larger model on its side. I like being able to do what I need to do (mom mode!) and clean the pool if need be, so this size is great for us. Also, moving the pool can be cumbersome the larger you go. You can always roll it on its side, but once you add the pump connections, you really need to lift it so those don't get damaged. 5' is just on the edge of what I can carry with my husband from where we store the pool to where we set it up in the warm months. Again, if you have help, the larger model can be a good option for swimming (instead of splashing) and room for more people to play at once.
How do I get it home?
The 5' tank fits easily in a truck bed, tilted slightly on its side. If you don't have a truck readily available, Home Depot has trucks and trailers to rent, especially if you're getting a larger stock tank. Some stores will even deliver.
Where should I place it?
This is where design comes in to play!
This will be in place for several months. While initially grass feels good on little feet for getting in and out, it's not ideal for the long term. Grass ends up getting in the pool, and it takes a beating from being wet. Eventually you'll have a mud pit inside and outside the pool. By the end of the summer, it will kill grass underneath it. Trust me, we've learned our lesson as we've moved it around the yard experimenting in the best location.
It needs to have a barefoot-friendly entry/exit point. Another option is gravel, but once feet are wet, gravel gets tracked into the pool and isn't fun to find while splashing around. Plus, kids think it's fun to dump loose gravel in the pool, but that makes a sharp and rather unpleasant surprise later. One friend mentioned to me about getting a small amount of artificial turf to go under the tank since all she has is weedy grass. You just want to consider that kids don't care about getting in at one entrance point so the artificial turf needs to encompass at least a 3' ring around the edge of the pool. I've found that pavers or a concrete pad are a great solution to keeping the pool clean!
Shade is ideal. You've got to protect that delicate skin from UV rays! It's small enough to warm up quickly as we get into summer months, at least in Austin, TX, so you don't need it to sit in the sun to make it a comfortable temperature.
Watch for messy plants. If I had to pick, I'd chase shade over worrying about a mess, but do consider how much nearby plants will blow leaf drop into the pool. Sitting under crape myrtles are the worst, and some plants constantly lose little leaves. This will put a hurt on your filters.
Little legs need steps up. If you're getting this for little kids, you'll need to provide some way to get in. Ours needed hot tub steps up until this year (now ages 7 and 10) or some other way to supplement getting in and out on their own.
In reach of a hose. That one is probably obvious and you'd figure it out pretty quickly that you either need to move it or get a longer hose. Our hose bib has a hot water connection and it's a delight when it's not quite summer yet to add hot water as temperatures are cooler in the morning and evening but sweltering in the middle of the day.
This year I feel pretty good about placing ours next to the steps of our deck, on top of our poured-in-place pavers, and under a shade tree. They're also close enough to our office that we can keep an eye on them while working. Win-win!
Do you have a stock tank cool pool? Let me know in the comments! And ask away if you have any questions.