Stock Tanks Used for Soaking Tubs

A lot of folks have discovered how easy it is to create a soaking tub using a common (but very functional) agricultural stock tank. Combined with an efficient Chofu heater, these low-cost steel or plastic tubs (available from most farm-supply stores) make wonderful soaking tubs. They have a pleasing smooth surface, the perfect shoulder depth water, and a comfortable rounded top rim for a perfect neck rest.

The fact is, a lot of people really prefer the simplicity of a soaking tub, rather than a high-maintenance spa. For those who have longed for, but could never find, a simple, low cost soaking tub, this is it. And – please understand! – a stock tank soaking tub does NOT have to look crude or tacky. You can make it as attractive as you want by adding a cedar frame, a surrounding deck, a wooden screen, and so on.

Stock tanks equipped with a Chofu heater are especially practical for vacation homes where electricity is not available and where the tub might sit unused for months at a time. With a stock tank soaking tub, you can easily disconnect and store the Chofu heater, while leaving the stock tank outside without worry.

Advantages of stock tank soaking tubs:

  1. Since they’re low volume and heated on demand, these tubs can be frequently and easily drained, making sanitation a whole lot easier. (See our page “Non-Toxic Sanitizing”.)
  2. They’re lightweight and easy to move.
  3. Simple! Since the system is non-electric and has no moving parts, there are no ongoing repairs or maintenance.
  4. Stock tanks are a great buy – depending on size, between $70 and $200.

What is a stock tank?

Stock tanks are large, flat-bottomed vessels, designed for watering livestock. They range in size from 40 to 800 gallons. As might be expected, they’re well-made and durable, having to stand up to horses and cattle. They’re designed for years of service out in the weather. And for people who love soaking tubs, they’re a gift from heaven!

Metal stock tanks

Most standard stock tanks are made of electro-galvanized steel. They have straight sides with lateral corrugations for strength and a rolled top rim about 1-inch diameter that’s comfortable to lay your arms or neck on. The bottom perimeter has a crimped-locked seam (like a tin can). The standard depth is 23-24 inches, just right for shoulder deep water (for comparison, most bath tubs are about 16 inches deep). Metal stock tanks come in either round or oblong shapes.

Plastic stock tanks

Plastic stock tanks are becoming increasingly popular for use as soaking tubs. Made of UV-resistant polyethylene, they range in depth from 24-25 inches. Typically, the top edge has a 2-inch-diameter rolled rim that’s very comfortable under the neck. Plastic stock tanks are made with sloping sides with angled steps for stiffening, which makes insulating them more difficult. However, people who prefer these tanks have improvised ways to make them work. (Inquire about our foam comfort-pads for plastic stock tanks.)

Useful statistics for stock tank soaking tubs

Size & Shape Capacity
Approx. Heating Time
(Chofu wood-fired)
Aprrox. Heating Time
(Chofu propane)
oblong 2 115 gals 1 1/2 hours 1 5/8 hours
6 ft x 2 ft oblong 2 140 gals 1 3/4 hours 2 hours
4 ft round 3 155 gals 2 hours 2 1/4 hours
5 ft round 4 240 gals 3 hours 3 1/4 hours
6 ft round 6 350 gals 4 1/2 hours 4 3/4 hours

How are they used?

Like Japanese soaking tubs, stock tanks have flat bottoms and vertical sides. Occupants sit comfortably with legs outstretched. This kind of tub uses much less water than tubs with benches or foot wells, and they’re a little cozier than commercial hot tubs, which is not always such a bad thing.

Although a stock tank can be used as-is, most people wrap insulation around the sides, then enclose the tub with wood paneling or marine vinyl. Note: Bare insulation materials will break down if exposed to the sun for prolonged periods.

Setting up a stock tank with a Chofu heater is quite simple. Holes are cut in the side for connecting circulation ports, and another hole is cut into the bottom to accommodate a drain. The Chofu heater is placed near the tub and connected with pipes and thru-wall tub-ports (provided with the heater). Tub and heater must be placed on solid foundations to create a level surface and provide the proper elevation of tub to heater for efficient thermosiphon circulation.

A top cover is desirable to keep heat in the tub. Either floating insulation or a vinyl insulating cover may be used.

Where to get your stock tank

Feed stores generally carry both plastic and metal stock tanks. Some brands are more desirable than others, so it’s a good idea to educate yourself before making a purchase. For information and answers to common questions, please refer to our fact sheet/flyer, “Purchasing A Stock Tank”.

We’ll help you do it yourself!

We carry all the accessories and materials you need to create your own stock tank soaking tub. We also offer free instruction and phone advice.
Call if you have any problems; we’re here to help. Toll-free: 1-888-878-5512.