I'm trying to create a system in my yard to automatically fill my pet tortoises dishes with water. My current plan is to have a bucket half submerged in the ground, and fill water up to surface level. I'll use the pressure from this to push water into each individual dish.

This is what the system will look like: drawing of reservoir, dishes and plumbing
Image taken from comment on an answer

I already have most of this system figured out, I just don't know what to do about filling. My first idea was to use a Korky Fill Valve, since I've seen them used in something as small as my toilet to as big as my pool... but I'm not sure what I need to do to connect it.

I have a 3/4" PVC pipe in my yard that pulls from the line, so I can use this for water. What will I need to connect a Korky to this?

  • Will you have a fill valve in each dish?
    – Willk
    Commented Aug 14, 2021 at 21:28
  • Nope, just in a big tank Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 0:34
  • I've edited to include an image the OP linked to in a comment on an answer (since comments can get deleted).
    – FreeMan
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 16:01

2 Answers 2


I built something similar for watering chickens. In their case I used drinker cups fed from a reservoir of water about 3 feet higher than the cups. I needed some automatic method of maintaining the reservoir filled. Sounds a lot like the tank on a toilet, doesn't it..? (photo: www.dhgate.com)

chicken drinker cup

So I built a miniature replica of a toilet tank from a pantry food storage container just large enough to hold a toilet float valve! (photos: www.homedepot.com, www.rubbermaid.com)

toilet float valve

pantry storage container

Drill a hole in the bottom of the storage container; install the float valve. Use normal plumbing parts to supply the float valve: a riser tube or hookup hose, a shutoff valve, etc. In my case I drilled another hole in the storage container and installed a bulkhead fitting to create the port for drawing water down to the drinker cups.

I don't know whether a tortoise can be trained or is physically capable to activate a drinker cup or not -- chickens just figure it out on their own. You're absolutely right that you could set the reservoir so that its height and the heights of the bowls match, then connect them with tubing below the water line.

In a comment you mentioned a one-way ("check") valve. Perhaps you can build one from a chicken drinker valve with a fishing float glued to it, and possibly some fishing weights too. Set it so that the weights make the drinker valve sink, allowing water flow until the buoyancy of the float on the rising water counteracts the weights and closes the valve. Put a stopper above the float -- otherwise if the bowl overfills the float will rise too much, opening the valve, and causing endless overflow!


Different method


Using a fill valve on each water dish seems expensive. Those things are $10! Plus you would need to make the dish deep enough that the float could work. You don't need a dish that deep to water tortoises.

Here is a cheap method. Save some bottles. I always have 2 liter bottles but you could use champagne bottles for this or whatever you have. Fill the bottle and put it upside down with the mouth at the bottom of the shallow water dish. You will note that the dish fills until the water level is over the mouth of the bottle. Then air cannot come in to displace the water and it stops. If thirsty tortoises or evaporation lowers the water level in the dish then air can get back into the bottle and the dish will fill back to the same level.

I depicted a stand you can make from scrap wood. It will keep the bottle upright and keep the dish in position under the bottle as I could image the tortoises might slide it on drinking.

You will need to refill bottle(s) periodically. This system can freeze but you probably take the tortoises in if it freezes. Algae can grow in a clear bottle. A coil of scrap copper pipe in the bottle will prevent that and do the tortoises no harm.

  • Maybe you misunderstood, the only place where a fill valve will be is in a tank. Each dish will receive water from pressure in the tank. Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 0:33
  • How do circumstances in the dish trigger the valve? What if one dish is still full and another is empty? Add a diagram of how you want it to get set up to your idea.
    – Willk
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 1:52
  • Here's a diagram, although it isn't too good. My basic idea is the fill valve will keep the tank at a certain level, and then a one way pipe will keep all the dishes at that same level. The same way a pool autofills Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 2:21
  • I see. That makes sense.
    – Willk
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 18:05
  • 1
    @NashAnderson please add the diagram to your post
    – jsotola
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 1:31

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