We’ve started hearing a lot about stock tanks recently, which was weird, considering they’re metal tanks made for feeding livestock. As it turns out, though, they’ve become the Mason jars of backyard pools for their perfect balance as a sturdier alternative to the kiddie pool, and a cheaper alternative to the pool pool. As these things go, they’re all over DIY Pinterest and somehow make for gorgeous Instagram photos.
The first hillbilly pools (as they’re also known) started popping up on the ’gram around 2013, and over the past year they’ve become so popular as pools and ponds that “there’s been an increased interest in larger-size tanks because people are creating pools,” says Brettan Hawkins, the social-media manager at Tractor Supply Company, the Home Depot for people who live in rural areas, and the go-to seller of stock tank pools. In fact, Tractor Supply was getting so many questions about how to turn these tanks into pools that the only review on their website for the biggest stock tank is about turning it into a pond, and Hawkins wrote a whole how-to guide for their website that was eventually picked up by Country Living.
Hawkins notes that lots of people who set these up talk about how their grandparents used to have them, too, so it might actually be more the reemerging of an old trick than a brand-new trend, but to get to the bottom of the current Instagram-friendly versions of animal feeders, we reached out to Sasha Eisenman, a photographer from L.A. who was one of the first people to post a picture of a stock tank pool on Instagram, and has since built three of them. He has a second home and some Airbnb’s that he rents out in Joshua Tree, California, where, as he tells it, everyone’s trying to build a hillbilly pool.
How did you discover stock tank pools?
When I first bought my house in Joshua Tree, I was desperate for some water to cool off in, and I was buying giant kiddie pools from Walmart, but when they get holes in them they’re useless, so you have to buy them a lot and they’re just silly. What really gave me the idea were these two guys who are pretty well-known out here: a couple named Steve and Glen. They have a giant water tank that they turned into a pool, and they built a deck around it, so it looks embedded in the deck. Initially, I had seen what they did and went swimming in their tank, and was blown away by how cool it was, but I had no idea where I could find a tank like that. So I was researching tanks when I drove past a feed store in the Yucca Valley that had a tank out front. I said, Look at that! That’s exactly what I need. That was in 2013.
So you bought it.
I set that up and was initially trying to clean the water by skimming the bugs with a net and dropping in chlorine tablets to maintain the water. But you can only keep the water clean for about a week that way, so you’d have to spill out and refill about 700 gallons of water. Eventually, I found a pump filtration system that I use now. I recommend the Intex pumps, so you cut a hole in the tank and insert one of those. That makes a huge difference in terms of keeping it clean, and it makes a really wonderful cascading water sound. [Editor’s note: You can also upgrade your stock tank pool with the very best World War II–era beach umbrella.]
Have you noticed more people building tanks recently?
Since that first tank, I’ve built two more pools, and in 2015, I started renting them out on Airbnb. Back then, I didn’t see anyone else with a tank in Joshua Tree, now I see so many. I actually just had someone write to me this morning, asking me if they can come by my property to study my tank and see how I have it set up because they want to build a tank as well. There’s a flurry of tank activity and tank interest right now.
So what are the basics of building one?
You need to pick out a good spot that’s close enough to a water source. I found my first tank at a mom-and-pop shop, but now that I get my tanks from Tractor Supply Company, I get the eight-foot-diameter tank, which is the biggest one. They also have a six-foot-diameter one, and a pill-shaped one that just one person can lie in. I think the eight-foot diameter is the way to go. [Editor’s note: There are also some available on Amazon, although they’re three feet in diameter.]
But they’re only two feet deep. How does that work?
It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s surprisingly good because when you sit in it, especially with the eight-foot tank, you can stretch out completely, put your arms on the side of tank, and you’re submerged up to neck. You can just float there. I’ll even sometimes swim around the perimeter.
What comes next for stock tank pools?
The great thing is, you can roll them into the garage for the winter, but my next thing is to figure out a way to heat them. Right now, they’re good for really hot days because the water stays really cool. I want to turn it into a giant hot tub. Talk to me in a year and we’ll see if I have my tank going strong in the winter, too.
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