When we moved into our home in Joshua Tree, the previous owners had left their stock tank pools behind—lucky for us, as these pools have completely transformed our summers in the desert. A really affordable alternative to a pool, stock tanks can be filled up in the summer to create a shallow soaking pool, also known as a cowboy pool. Some of our favorite summer memories the past couple of years have been in our stock tank pool, so after we installed an in-ground pool at our house this year, we decided to move our cowboy pool over to the Joshua Tree House so that our guests could enjoy our favorite summer experience as well.
Adding a Filter to a Stock Tank Pool
We get a lot of questions on Instagram about setting up and maintaining a stock tank pool, so we’re finally sharing a detailed DIY of how we installed a filter in our pool to keep the water fresh, as well as what goes into maintaining the pool once it’s set up.
- Drill with adjustable torque – It is important to have a strong enough drill to cut through the metal. This is a good entry level drill that will have enough torque to make the hole.
- 3″ hole saw bit with arbor – This slides into the chuck of the drill to make the hole.
- Waterproof silicone or plumber’s putty – This is to make sure water doesn’t leak from the pool and attaches to the washers.
- Safety glasses – It’s important to protect your eyes when drilling to make sure that no metal fragments injure you.
- 8′ round stock tank or 5′ long stock tank – We have the 8′ round at The Joshua Tree House and the 5′ long at the Casita. The 8′ round pool fits around six people comfortably, while the 5′ long stock tank pool fits one or two people comfortably.
- Pool pump with built in filter – We went with this one because it says that it has a minimum pool size of 700 gallons, which is how much water an 8′ round stock tank pool holds.
- Strainer cover – This connects the hose that receives water from the pool and prevents large debris from sucking into the filter/pump.
- 2 Plunger valves – These are shut off valves for the water going to and from the pump. They make it easier to service the pump or replace it if needed without the water flowing out of the pool.
- Type A filter replacements – These work with the suggested pump. You should replace your filter every couple of months, but rinse them with a hose every 2 weeks.
- *Optional* Stock tank float valve – This part is *optional*, but keeps filling the pool so it stays a consistent level.
- *Optional* Saltwater system – We didn’t use this since we were concerned with rust. If you decide to use this, you won’t need chlorine and the other maintenance products, just salt and you may need to paint the interior of the pool.
Steps to install the stock tank pool filter
- Make sure that you have all of the parts you need. When we first bought our pool pump, I incorrectly assumed that the strainer cover and the plunger valves would have come with the pump. Luckily I hadn’t drilled the holes in the stock tank before I realized I still needed to order those! Make sure to order your strainer and plunger valves separately.
- Find a spot for your pool. Depending on the size of the pool, make sure that you choose a spot that is fairly level and can fit the pool. You may need to level out the area to make this happen. You can also use pavers or rocks in the area to make sure that there’s no water erosion.
- Make sure there is power. The pump needs to plug into a GFCI (an outlet with a circuit breaker built in) that is in an outdoor box. If you don’t have one near the spot you want to place the pool, you may need to have a licensed electrician run power there.
- Choose the hole locations. You’ll need to drill two 3 inch holes into the side of the stock tank pool. The first is for the strainer, which receives water from the pool and lets it into the filter and pump. This needs to be about 3 to 6 inches from the bottom of the stock tank pool. The second hole is for the filtered water jet coming from the pump which can be a few inches below the top water line, or lined up with the strainer. At the Joshua Tree House we have the strainer and jet about 18 inches apart and level (3 inches from the bottom).
- Drill the holes. Attach the 3″ hole saw bit to the drill. Triple check the positioning since you don’t want to drill the wrong spot! This DIY does not go over patching holes ;). Press the drill firmly and drill a hole into the side of the stock tank pool. Repeat for the second hole.
- Attach the jet. Place the flat strainer rubber washer over the threaded connector of the jet. Put a liberal bead of silicone over top of the rubber washer where it will connect to the side of the stock tank pool. This is to ensure that regardless the size of the hole, there won’t be any leaks. Push the threaded connector through the jet hole and connect step washer (included with your pump) and strainer nut on the exterior of the pool. I would also suggest to put another liberal bead of silicone on the step washer where it connects to the outside of the pool.
- Attach the strainer cover. Follow the same directions as the step above, just use the strainer parts instead of the jet.
- Connect the plunger valves. Using the nut at the end of the plunger valve, attach it to the exposed threads of the jet and strainer. Make sure that the plunger valves are open so water can flow through them.
- Connect the hoses. Attach the hoses to the bottom of the plunger valves, and to the correct spots of the pump. Make sure that the strainer goes to the filter, and the jet hose goes to the pump.
- Confirm that there are no leaks. After about 30 minutes (or whichever drying time your silicone suggests), spray the jet and strainer to see if there are any leaks. If there are, check the connections and you may need to apply more silicone.
- Fill up the pool. Now we’re all set up and can fill up the pool! With a 50 foot hose, it should take a little under 1 hour to fill up an 8 foot round stock tank pool. Once it’s full, add the chlorine and other water treatment to make sure the water stays clean.
- Turn on the pump. Plug the pump in and have it start filtering the water! You may need to release air from the top of the filter by twisting the knob on top to let water go through. After some water comes out, twist the knob back to the original position.
It’s important to treat your pool once a week to keep consistent chlorine and PH levels. This will increase the pump’s lifespan and keep it working more efficiently. Not to mention, it’s better for your skin and eyes to make sure the water is not too acidic. Be sure to spray down the filter every 2 weeks and replace every 2 to 3 months.
- Pool test strips – Use these to check the chlorine and PH levels of the pool.
- 3″ chlorine tablets – These keep the water clean by killing bacteria and algae.
- Floating chlorine dispenser – Just add a chlorine tablet to this to have it slowly dissolve.
- PH up – This is also known as soda ash which makes sure the water isn’t too acidic. It prevents erosion and red eye irritation.
- PH down – This is also known as sodium bisulfate and fixes PH levels that are too high. It prevents skin irritation and pool scale formation.
- Shock – This kills the algae in the stock tank pool.