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At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I got it in my head that I wanted a pool. Having spent the majority of my formative years living in California, my parents and I had pools in a few of the different houses we rented — although I rarely swam in them due to complaints around “bees” or “my huge pad.” So, I decided that since I owned a home, which is smack dab in the hotter-than-actual-hell city of New Orleans, Louisiana, I should, and could (big question mark) have a pool now.
After I Googled how much it would cost to have an in-ground pool installed (at LEAST $30,000, including labor), that fantasy dwindled. Not to mention the fact that digging any kind of hole in the New Orleans ground is a risky move. [There’s a reason why our dead are buried in above-ground tombs here.]
I thought a pool just wasn’t in the cards for me and prepared to move on to some other kind of annoying obsession. So, I started a savings account called VAN LIFE, which accumulated to $200. But I needed it to pay a bill, and transferred it back to checking. Then, my friend told me about something called a stock tank pool, and the answer was there, rippling blue, smelling of chlorine, and right within my reach.
Farms use stock tanks for actual livestock (cows, pigs, etc.), but you can buy one, fill it up with water, install a pump, and boom, you’ve got a pool that’s deep enough to float in and doesn’t take a whole lot to maintain or install. I got my stock tank pool from a local couple who’d started a company called Small Splash. They, like me, were in need of a wellness escape that was effective and local.
“I really got hip to the whole stock-tank-as-pools thing last June, and I immediately became possessed by the idea,” said Meredith Acocella, co-owner of Small Splash. “It was summer in New Orleans, the pandemic was raging, and it became something I could throw myself into that was fun and distracting.”
For those who want almost everything their impulse conjures up, but don’t have the bucks to make it a reality, stock tank pools are the perfect affordable luxury. The tank delivery, pump, and installation cost me a total of $1,300. And let me tell you, as joyful as it sounds, I’ve gotten five times the amount of joy out of it.
PSA: The price of stock tank pools is known to fluctuate due to increased demand, and finding the tanks can be a bit of a challenge as they’re “a thing” now. So, if you think you might want one, act fast so you can get on a waiting list if need be.
In a month’s time, I went from having never heard of stock tank pools to being fully submerged (pool puns!) in the stock tank pool community. As I write this, the #StockTankPool hashtag on Instagram has 15.3K posts, and off-shoots like #NoDivingClub and #StockTankLife are popping up by the hour.
“After I put my [stock tank pool] in, I pretty quickly decided that these pools would work perfectly for this city,” said Meredith. “Summer is so hot and so long here, New Orleans lots aren’t always the biggest, and in general, I thought people would be down to spend a reasonable amount on a small delight in their backyards.”
I can attest to that! Since getting my pool installed, I’ve had so much fun seeking out cute and colorful floats designed to look like sprinkled donuts, chlorine bobbers shaped like pink flamingos, and water temperature thermometers with happy yellow rubbery duckies on top to help them.
Every morning, after my coffee and dog walking rituals are done, I go out and use the skimmer I bought to get any bugs or leaves out of the water. Then I use a pool brush to clean the bottom and sides of the pool, test the water’s PH with easy paper test strips I bought on Amazon, and then run the pump for a couple of hours, so the water stays clean and blue, constantly.
I find that futzing with my pool to keep it clean makes me just as happy as actually splashing around in the pool itself. It turns out that having this kind of hobby is just what I needed to keep the blues at bay. And I’m not alone in this new happy tiny pool craze.
Meredith noticed how quickly stock tank pools caught on both locally and nationally. “The ‘New York Times’ wrote an article about this trend and I think that gave it more of a national platform,” she observed. “After that, inventory was the biggest obstacle [and continues to be to an extent]. Tanks were really hard to find, the filter pumps were selling for three times their value on eBay and Amazon — it was a whole thing.”
But with a little luck and resourcefulness, things kicked into gear. “Back in early spring , I was able to track down a few tanks, and that was the push I needed to start Small Splash before summer. So far this season, I’ve done three installs but have three more on the queue. It’s been mostly word-of-mouth, which has been working great. I’m not sure if my ability to get tanks can match the demand, but I guess that’s not a bad problem to have,” Meredith said.
Floating in my pool, which we call “Little Dippy,” not only provides me the proven therapeutic benefits of sunshine and water, but it forces me to set aside my phone for however long I’m bobbing along. I think I’d forgotten what it felt like to be truly relaxed. Now that I’m part of the stock tank pool community, that level of joy is priceless.
Kelly McClure is a writer who has written for NY Magazine, GQ, The Hairpin, Rolling Stone, and more. Find more of her work here.