I used the females on the 1/2" silicon hoses and the males on the pumps, bulkheads, etc works great. And yes, I used 1/2" female female ball valves on the pump outlets. You'll definitely want the ball valves on the pump outlets. I also recommend taking the pump head off and turning the inlet pointing down, makes priming a lot easier. Otherwise you'll fight it and curse it every time you try and prime the pump. These are far and away the most difficult pumps to get primed that I've ever worked with. I have used a lot of different pumps having a saltwater reef tank and none were so finicky.