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What is a Dunk Tank?

By R. Kayne
Updated: May 23, 2024

If you've ever been to a fair, chances are you've seen a dunk tank. It is an acrylic stand built to hold a large quantity of water, over which a seat extends on a collapsible neck. Next to the tank is a bull's-eye style target, connected by a mechanism to the seat in the dunk tank. For a small amount of money a player is given one or more softballs. Standing behind a set line, he or she tries to hit the bull's-eye by throwing a ball. A direct hit causes the seat support to collapse, dunking the person sitting atop it.

Although a dunk tank can be great fun at places like public fairs where participants don't know the person getting dunked, it can have even more appeal when the players are trying to dunk someone they know. For this reason, portable dunk tanks have become popular rental items for a variety of outdoor events.

For example, a dunk tank is a great way for students to raise money. A few faculty members might volunteer to take shifts sitting in the tank. The student body can pay money for the chance to dunk a coach, math teacher, or even, perhaps, the principle. Watch how fast those coffers grow! Company events might also include a dunk tank. How would you like the chance to dunk your boss? This is great fun for participants and on-lookers alike. It also allows employees to bond over good-hearted laughs.

A dunk tank is perfect for hot summer bashes and backyard parties of all kinds. The rental variety requires only about an 8-square foot area (.74 sq. meters). One common model consists of a large plastic tub with acrylic viewport window, overhanging seat and bull's-eye arm. A chain link enclosure reaches upwards a few feet from the top of the tub to protect the dunkee from wayward pitches. A large, heavy-duty plastic curtain hangs behind the bull's-eye arm to stop balls that miss their mark.

When renting a dunk tank, make sure the quoted price includes delivery, setup and insurance. The dunk tank will need to be placed within range of a water source, commonly within 100 feet (30 meters), and the tank will hold upwards of 250 gallons (about 1 kiloliter). Small children should not be allowed to get inside the tank, and once filled, the dunk tank should be monitored at all times when children are present.

Prices on dunk tank rentals will vary according to vendor, but a ballpark figure might be between US$120 and $180 per day. Weekend and holiday rental fees will usually be higher than weekday prices. Some less expensive offers will require the customer to tow the dunk tank to the event and sign a waiver of responsibility. Companies that provide insurance might be a better idea for your own safety.

A dunk tank is a great idea for fundraisers, birthday parties, company outings, backyard bashes and parties of all kinds. If interested, contact your local party supplier. Vendors that rent dunk tanks often rent other party equipment, like "bouncers," cotton candy machines, or even frozen margarita fountains.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon205254 — On Aug 11, 2011

@Anon28489: Did your grandfather come from lakeview, NY? My father told me many years ago that a man from that town developed the dunk tank and had the original patent.

By anon28489 — On Mar 17, 2009

My grandfather actually invented the "dunk Tank" over 60 years ago. The original name was "Bozo Drop". My grandfather and my parents rode with a carnival in the early times and worked the concession. It was the Blue Ribbon Carnival, I think.

I didn't know that the patent expires upon my grandfathers death, but my family has the original patent.

By anon14758 — On Jun 23, 2008

I can't guarantee what prices they will sell them for but yes.... renters will sometimes sell a dunk tank that has gotten some use in order to replace it with a newer one. If you don't have anyone who rents dunks tanks in your area, you can also find vendors online. I entered "dunk tank" in a search engine and the second link was to the Twister company (makers of the famous game) that also sell dunk tanks.

By rocket — On Jun 18, 2008

Yes, but I asked about buying a dunk tank, not just renting one. Or are you saying that renters will also sell them for the prices you mentioned?

By anon12650 — On May 11, 2008

New and used dunk tanks are available, often from renters. New dunk tanks are expensive, and the liner is usually separate and runs about $275. Tanks are typically upwards of $1700. You might find a used tank cheaper.

By rocket — On Apr 14, 2008

Are there places to buy dunk tanks? If so, how much does that generally cost?

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