Have you ever thought about making a stock tank pool for your backyard? My husband and I learned through a lot of trial and error how to do it, and in this blog you will find detailed step by step instructions including a video that will make setting up your own stock tank pool a breeze!
With five young kids seven and under, we don’t really like to go anywhere, and this stock tank pool has been an amazing cost effective addition to our yard for both us and our kids. When the temperature is above 70º F (we’ll even settle for 60º F on an early spring thaw), our kids will play in it for hours every single day. This is our fourth summer using it, and has held up beautifully. (*Note: I originally wrote this blog when we first made our pool in 2015, but I update it every summer to include any changes or modifications we’ve made, including 2018 where we replaced the hoses and installed real plunger valves.)
They love sitting in their round doughnuts bouncing up and down, riding around on pool noodles, jumping off from the ladder, and just splashing around. My husband and I like to find a way to float and relax. When we close our eyes and feel our bodies bob around in the water, we can almost envision that we’re floating on the shores of some tropical island…until Elliot does a cannonball that is! (Check out all of our backyard summer fun ideas here!)
*Video note: We don’t typically run the filter while kids are swimming in it. The suction is incredibly strong and can be quite shocking if you accidentally press your butt against it! 🙂
When we started researching pools last summer, I was almost tempted to buy a 12 foot Intex pool, but after reading reviews about patching pinholes and knowing that my kids like to play rough (which it couldn’t sustain), I didn’t think it sounded like a good idea.
Growing up, my Aunt Sue always had a round stock tank pool that she placed on a deck in her backyard. She always kept the water crystal clear with a filter and had it set up on a little deck. It was beautiful! We had an oval shaped horse trough pool growing up, but we never really kept it clean, and it turned into a holding tank for the tadpoles and turtles that we would catch in our nearby lake. It was still really fun though!
I scoured the Internet for some good directions for making a stock tank pool and could only find really cute pictures (that often showed crystal clear water with no filter…not possible!) without many good directions, so I hope that in this post, I can be a little more specific. Needless to say, we learned how to do everything wrong before we learned how to do everything right, so hopefully, if you’re looking to make your own stock tank pool, you can avoid some of the pitfalls we had and do things right the first time around!
- 8 Foot (diameter) Round Galvanized Steel Stock Tank Pool: I would have liked a 10 foot, but they didn’t have any at our local Tractor Supply Store and the 8 foot has actually been just perfect. They are typically 2 feet high – which is pretty much shorter than anyone who is really good at walking, so it’s safe for toddlers! We bought ours at a local farm store for $350, but if you want to buy something online, Amazon has 6′ diameter stock tanks available. Stockyards Ranch Supply in Colorado also has them online, and you can call for a delivery quote.
- Sand Filter Pump: You don’t have to have a pump if you’re okay with just emptying the pool when it gets dirty or using some chlorine or bromine tablets, but I highly recommend buying one for the long haul. It’s great for filtering out algae and debris, has a 24-hour timer with preset cycles for automatic operation, is low maintenance (you only need to empty out the sand every 5 years), and has a six-function control valve that lets you filter, backwash, rinse, recirculate, drain, and close the system. We bought the filter for a 16 foot diameter pool. It filters 2,450 gallons per hour, and it does a very nice job, but we still need to add shock treatment or drain it completely several times over the summer. They also offer a 12′ filter that cycles through 1,600 gallons an hour and a 10′ filter that cycles through 1,050 gallons an hour (*FYI: a 10 foot stock tank pool holds 1,100 gallons of water). *Each pool filter also comes with two connecting hoses, but if you need to buy replacement hoses (like we did because they became full of algae), you can do that too.
- Pool Filter Sand: We just used some sand from our sandbox, but this type of sand was recommended by our pool filter system manual.
- *Additional Filter Systems:
- Saltwater System: It pretty much makes its own “natural” chlorine. You could use this in addition to the sand filter for optimum performance.
- Cartridge Filter Pump: If you’re looking for the cheapest option, you could get this cartridge filter pump, but you’d have to replace the filters every two weeks. I’ve heard that these don’t last very long, but it’s a cheaper up front cost.
- Floating Dispenser and Bromine Tablets or Chlorine Tablets: (Bromine is safer than chlorine…slightly.)
- Pool Water Shock: Kills bacteria and algae in one big shock of chlorine. (Because of the dangers of chlorine, we try our best to avoid it. We’d prefer not to use any of these methods, but we have used the pool shock a time or two when things got bad…mainly because we didn’t use our pool filter properly…it did a fine job of killing the algae, and then we just avoided the pool until it all evaporated, 24-48 hours.)
- Liquid Chlorine: We recently purchased (in 2019) an Intex 15′ x 48″ Metal Frame Above Ground Pool at Menards because it was HALF OFF and the older kids (ages 8 and 9) have been BEGGING us for a bigger pool, and I finally learned about the miracles of liquid chlorine! Follow the directions and use a pool testing kit (you can get something cheap like this or more comprehensive and expensive like this…we opted for cheap), but basically for a 1,100 gallon stock tank pool, you’d put in about 6 oz (so half a beer bottle) to start things out, about 1 oz every night for maintenance, and then 6 oz once a week. When we just had the stock tank pool, I was fine to avoid chlorine and just empty the pool when it got green, but now that we have a 10,000 gallon pool and all around less time on our hands, I’ve been chlorinating both pools and it’s been a dream.
- Plunger Valves: Unfortunately, the plunger valves pictured below are no longer available on Amazon. These plunger valves appear to be similar, but beware that while many people were very happy with their purchase, about 32% say they didn’t receive all of the parts listed. (I also found them here on ebay with great reviews.) These other plunger valves have good reviews, but they don’t include the part you’d need to attach to the inside of the pooI. When we originally made our stock tank pool, we just went to the plumbing section of the hardware store with a tape measure and bought some connecting pieces that had threads with a 1.5 inch interior diameter and 2 1/8 inch diameter and attachment pieces for the inside of the pool. We got it to work with a lot of trial and error and epoxy, but now four years later, we’re redoing it properly.
I recently had someone ask for alternatives to the plunger valves, so I’ll share what we did originally, although I must say that it did not work very well! They would constantly leak and we had to add a lot of epoxy and other adhesives. I suppose if we had used something like these rubber rings, we could’ve gotten a better seal.
- Drill: You’ll need to drill two holes (each with a 2.5 inch diameter) into the pool if you’re going to attach a filter. As convenient as a cordless drill can be, we have had much more success with drilling projects that need a lot of power to use a corded drill like this. You’ll also need a hole saw kit to attach to your drill.
- PC-11 Epoxy: I accidentally hit one of the plunger valves with the snow blower this winter (2019) and needed something heavy duty to reattach the plastic pieces. The guy at the hardware store recommended this marine grade quality epoxy, and let me tell you it is a MIRACLE WORKER!!! How have I never heard of this stuff?!?!?! (We even used it to fix our leaky pump on our washing machine…amazing!) In case you’re wondering, I’ll include what I used from the video below. It has held up nicely, but if I had to do it all over again I would use the PC-11.
- *18′ Intex Pool: If all of this is just sounding like too much (really, it’s not that bad), then maybe you’d be better off just buying the complete package…and why not get the dream set up! This pool looks rather appealing and has everything ready to go! 🙂
Check out the video below for a detailed description for creating your very own stock tank pool! This is my first video on my new Embracing Motherhood YouTube channel, so please like, subscribe, and be on the lookout for more videos to come soon!
- Get the pool to your house! We bought our 8′ (8 foot diameter) stock tank pool from our local farm store. They would have delivered it to us for a fee, but my husband knew someone with a trailer so they strapped the pool down and drove it (slowly) to our house.
- Prepare the pool location. You want to find a place that is level and not close to too many trees that will annoy you with their random leaves cluttering your pool. When we made our sandbox, we put an extra load of sand where we wanted our pool, and it made an excellent base. (You don’t have to do this, it’s just a nice touch.) You’ll also need to be close to an electrical outlet (the cord for the filter is quite long). We have a shed right next to our pool location, so we run the power cord through the shed window.
- Set up the pool filter. This seems a lot more complicated than it really is, especially after you watch the instruction video, but bear with it, it’s not that bad. Basically, you’ll need to put it together and fill it with sand. You can put it on a base, but we never did, and it has worked just fine.
- Cut two holes in the stock tank pool for the filter tubes. You’ll want to position the holes about 2-3 feet apart from each other in about the middle of the top half of the pool walls. Measure the outside diameter of the attachment piece that will fit through the hole before cutting. It should be 2 1/8 inches wide. We used a corded drill and a drill bit with a 2.5 inch diameter which was slightly bigger than the attachment pieces, and it worked perfectly. (The first time we made our stock tank pool, we measured the inside diameter of the tube which was 1.5 inches, so the holes were too small. Making the holes slightly bigger was a huge task that we finally took on four years later. This is why in the older pictures of our stock tank pool, the tubes are covered with lots of extra adhesive and towels!)
- Attach the plunger valves and secure with epoxy. The big round end with the filter goes on the inside of the pool. *Originally, I used plumber’s epoxy and waterproof epoxy, which has held up nicely, but if I could do it all over again, I would use PC-11 epoxy which is designed to be underwater and withstand massive amount of pressure. To use the PC-11, mix the epoxy from the two containers together (using popsicle sticks and some cardboard), apply liberally around the attachment pieces, and let cure for 24 hours. **If you want to follow what I did in the video, roll out a nice long snake of plumber’s epoxy and put it around the top part of the threads. Roll another big snake of plumber’s epoxy and put it around the top part of the threads on the attachment piece that will be outside of the pool. (It’s a good idea to wear disposable gloves for this…I learned that the hard way!) Press them together (having an extra set of hands for this is pretty crucial), and then start twisting until they are connected. Use a big wrench to get it really tight! When completely hardened, paint with waterproof epoxy on every single part that could leak and let cure for 24 hours. Nothing should move! These plunger valves will stay permanently connected to your pool, but you want to be able to detach the hoses for cleaning purposes so don’t put any epoxy on the hose attachment.
- Attach the pool filter tubes and fill with water. You’ll want to let the epoxy fully dry for at least 24 hours before filling with water. If you notice any leaks as you fill the pool, you’ll have to drain it, let it dry, and troubleshoot. Sometimes the threading on one of the hoses can be off a little bit. Also, when you turn the pool filter on, you’ll have to release the small valve on the top of the debris catcher (near the intake) to release the air and allow the filter to work.
Stock Tank Pool Maintenance
- Keep the junk out. We made sure to establish some rules with the kids about not putting sand or other debris into the pool and put a little foot rinsing bucket (or a small pool) in front of the ladder. I also like using a pool skimmer regularly to fish out any stray floaties and occasionally I’ll use the vacuum attachment for dirt that settles on the bottom. But seriously, we don’t get too strict here because it’s no fun if you start getting paranoid about every speck of dirt that might get in. *After some reflection: I think the ideal situation would be to place some patio stones with small rocks inbetween around the pool to keep grass out, but by the time we get around to it, I think the kids will have outgrown the pool! 🙂
- Run the filter. Pay close attention to the owner’s manual for your filter and run all scheduled maintenance. We did a poor job of this the first year we had our pool, and as a result, the tubes filled up with green algae as did the filter, and it became very hard to keep clean. I highly recommend watching the instruction DVD that comes with your filter, but basically, you’ll keep it on filter all of the time, turn it on to the clock setting (24 hour timer) every day and backwash/rinse as needed when the pool looks dirty. *Note: Always shut off the filter pump before turning the filter valve or it could damage the gasket or internal filter parts.
- FILTER: Keep it here all the time, except when backwashing, rinsing, or wasting.
- RINSE: Use this setting for 15 seconds after backwashing to rinse the sand filter tank.
- *RECIRCULATE: A filter bypass setting to use if your filter is broken or leaking.
- BACKWASH: Use this setting to reverse the flow in the filter and send water out of the waste line. Make sure valves are open and the cap is off where it says DRAIN on your filter.
- CLOSED: Put here to close off the flow from the pool if you need to work on the filter for some reason.
- *WASTE/DRAIN: Another bypass filter setting if your filter isn’t working properly that sends the water out of the waste pipe. This is a good way to lower the level of the pool if need be.
- Clean the tubes. If you’re like us and have a lot of grass getting into the pool, you’ll want to make sure you clean out the tubes every time you do a backwash. The small tube that is a part of the filter gets clogged with grass pretty easily and can lead to some pretty severe algae problems.
- Drain it. After the first fill up during the first year of having our pool, it stayed pretty clean and clear for about 6-8 weeks. Then, it started to get a little green looking, and then like the next day we couldn’t see the bottom of the pool! When this happens, all of the shock treatment in the world won’t make a difference, and it’s better to just drain it. To drain the pool, unscrew the tubes from the filter and pull the plug out from the bottom. It will make the ground nice and swampy for the afternoon, but the water will all drain away eventually.
- Power wash it. Having a good power washer like this is useful around the house for so many reasons, but for cleaning out a dirty pool, it’s simply the best! You won’t get every little speck, but it will dislodge most of the gunk, and the rest you can get with some cleaner and a scrub brush. (If you really want to go crazy, I recommend a gas power washer like this!)
- Yearly cleaning. When you’re done using the pool for the season, detach ALL of the hoses (including the small one on the filter) and clean them. The sand in the filter only needs to be replaced every five years, but we empty it out every season because it makes it easier to move and store for the winter. Finally, tip the pool upside down. We let the kids jump and play on it when it’s upside down, but we are very clear that they are not to step on the plunger valves. There was a small leak that started in the seam at the bottom of the pool, but we just put some waterproof epoxy on it, and it’s been totally fine.
Additional Pool Items
- Pool Ladder: This is the one we got, and it’s quite a bit taller than our pool, but our kids love jumping off from it into the pool. It’s also really good for keeping the baby from easily climbing into the pool.
- Solar Cover: This could work great to keep debris out of the pool and to warm the water. If you get this, I don’t think you need a pool cover. *We have never used either, however, because it really just seems like too much of a hassle.
- Pool Skimmer: This is GREAT for getting out grass clippings, small leaves, and any other little floaters.
- Pool Vacuum: This is great for getting sediment that settles to the bottom of the pool (especially if you have kids tracking a lot of sand into the pool).
- Life Jackets: These life jackets are our favorites for the little ones (30-50 lbs) and are great for teaching kids the mechanics of swimming. Our older kids are learning how to swim, but still like life jackets like these.
- Swimming Diapers: As much as I love to have my kids run around naked in the summer, I don’t like them peeing and pooping in our pool!
- Flotation Devices: This pool isn’t big enough hold anything too big, but our kids have enjoyed some basic round tubes. We have also enjoyed getting some fancy full body floating devices for a really tropical experience!
- Pool Noodles: The kids have enjoyed playing with these in the pool more than anything! Scott and I like tucking one under our neck and one under our ankles and floating like we’re in the middle of the crystal clear waters of some tropical resort!
- Diving Rings and Sticks: Once kids can hold their breath underwater, these diving rings and sticks (with goggles) make for a lot of fun!
- Foot Rinsing Bucket: We like putting a large rectangular bucket in front of the ladder so that the kids will rinse their feet before going in. We have also used a small mini pool for this as well.
- Slide – We picked up a slide like this at a garage sale and attached these wooden legs. The kids have loved it!
If you want something sturdy and fun that will allow you to enjoy hours and hours of backyard fun in the summer sun, I highly recommend getting a stock tank pool with a sand filter set up. If we had gone with one of the cheap Intex pools of a similar size, we would constantly have to nag the kids to be gentle and then it would probably still pop a hole at some point anyways. This has stood up VERY well (on our fourth season of using it now) to lots of roughhousing, and I’m hoping that it will last for years to come! Check out our other ideas for making a fun backyard experience for young children here. If you’re looking for a detailed explanation for setting up a stock tank pool, check out my YouTube video here!
*2019 Update: This is our fifth summer using our stock tank pool, and while the little ones (ages 2, 4, and 6) still love it, our older ones (ages 8 and 9) have been begging for something bigger so we got an Intex 15′ x 48″ Metal Frame Above Ground Pool at Menards because it was half off. I really need to write a blog post about the dos and don’ts for setting this up, but for now know that the most important advice is to MAKE SURE IT’S LEVEL!!! (Also, yes, we moved, and we brought the stock tank pool with us!)