Which Stock Tank Is the Better Choice, Poly or Galvanized Steel?

When choosing a water tank to keep your horses watered, you have two basic choices, the good old standby which is the galvanized steel stock tank and the more recent addition to the stock market the poly plastic stock tank. Both the plastic and the steel water tanks come in all sizes from 25 gallons all the way up to 800 gallons of capacity. They all come with a standard one-year manufacturer’s warranty against defects regardless of the manufacturer.

The question most equestrians ask is which is better and which will last longer? I have owned both styles of stock tanks, and they both have benefits as well as disadvantages. Really, it all comes down to a matter of personal preferences when making this decision.

Poly plastic tanks usually offer a removable drain plug at the bottom of the tank; this allows the use of drain plug stock tank heaters in the winter, which is perhaps one of the biggest benefits to a poly plastic tank. Drain plug deicers screw into the drain plug at the bottom of the water tank, which inhibit curious and bad horses from pulling your stock tank heater out of the tank and playing with it! The other big benefit to a drain plug deicer in the winter is they are less expensive than other traditional water tank heaters! Typically a drain plug deicer will range about $34.99 new versus the standard sinking tank deicer will cost $47.00.

Galvanized steel tanks are easier to clean algae out of in the summer months with a brush versus the poly plastic, which requires a bit more scrubbing and elbow grease. The steel tanks are sealed with a silicon product at the seams; this does disintegrate over time and causes the steel tank to leak at the seams along the sides and the bottom of the tank. This process will also speed up if you have horses that like to kick steel stock tanks when the water starts to get low, I have the full on chain gang in our back yard constantly beating our steel tanks. To remedy this you can reseal the tank seams with a silicon sealant or JB Weld also works wonderfully for this type of application. The key is to really work the product into the seams when you have to reseal the tank and be sure you are applying the product to a clean, dry surface, and then allow it to dry per the manufacturer’s recommendations before refilling the stock tank with water.

Steel stock tanks should also come with a bottom drain plug, although you will find they are difficult to remove and if you lose the plug, they are even harder to find a replacement. Poly tanks, especially Rubbermaid water tanks, the drain plugs are readily available should you lose it. In general a steel tank is easier to push over when you need to empty the stock tank to clean it.

When comparing initial cost of these livestock tanks, poly versus steel they are going to be very similar and are all different based on the gallon capacity of a tank. A 149-gallon poly tank will cost about $150.00, a steel stock tank with the same capacity will cost between $140-$160 depending on where you are in the US. The cost fluctuates more with steel due to the steel prices changing on a regular basis.

Poly tanks will degrade more at higher elevations to the to the increases UV exposure. The tanks will fade in color over time and become brittle. The major downfall with poly tanks is once they become brittle, there is no repairing that can be done to the stock tank. A steel tank can be bent back into shape, kicked, beat, and be exposed to brutal cold, and extreme heat and still be repaired after years of use. If you have a horse that likes to kick stock tanks you may be best advised to stay away from poly tanks in general and be ready to reseal you steel tank every couple of years.

Both styles of livestock tanks should last for years with proper care and no abuse. My galvanized steel water tanks that I am using are over 15 years old. I have seen poly tanks this old as well. Bottom line is your water tank choice is a personal preference, and anyone can get his or her money’s worth out of either product for many years to come with proper care. Which brand do you go with? HW Brand makes an outstanding Galvanized Steel Stock Tank and Rubbermaid or Fortiflex both make a great quality Poly Plastic Stock Tanks.