LeoGlossary: Impermanent Loss

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4 min read

Liquidity pools allow anyone to essentially become a market maker. This can be a profitable venture for investors. This does not mean it is not without risk. People can lose when providing liquidity to these pools. One such mechanism is impermanent loss.

This is a temporary loss that is incurred when being a provide to a liquidity pool due to volatility of the trading pair. If the price of the assets in the pool come down, the investor will suffer a loss. This is considered temporary since it is not locked in. If the price of the coins or tokens reverses course, the loss can be eliminated.

It is a situation that needs to be counter balanced against the return that one is receiving. The incentive to provide liquidity comes in the form of a payout, usually from transaction fees. Here we can see how it can offset some of the impermanent loss.

By removing the assets from the pool, the loss becomes permanent from this perspective. The individual will still hold the coins/tokens so if they jump in value, that will be captured.

One way to reduce the volatility is to have one of the pairs be a stablecoin. When entering a liquidity pool, the investment has to be split evenly among both sides of the pair. For example, a Bitcoin and Ethereum pool would require the contribution of an even amount of both coins, in USD terms.

Since stablecoins has the least volatility in cryptocurrency, removing the volatility from one pair will help to reduce the impermanent loss even though it does not eliminate it.

Decentralized Finance (DeFi)

Liquidity pools are am important part of decentralized finance (DeFi). Many protocols such as Uniswap, Sushiswap, or Pancakeswap have seen an increase in usage. Unlike centralized exchanges (CEX), these DEX are not custodians. People are not putting their assets on the exchange to trade. This means that DEX have to operate from a different perspective.

One of the challenges is where to get liquidity. DEX utilize various methods to solve this issue. One is to access liquidity pools. Thus, they are a vital feature of DeFi.

Also, since impermanent loss is a component of liquidity pools, there is no way to overlook this.

Investors can look to minimize their exposure to impermanent loss by focusing upon the assets themselves. If the underlying coin or token is very volatile, then we can expect that repeated in the liquidity pool. Couple two of these assets together and you can have LPs that have wild swings.

Cryptocurrency is a volatile asset class overall. Bubbles are commonplace. The bear markets that follow the bulls are renowned. Investors need to understand this.

Returns are also affected by the volume. One of the risk with open source software is anyone can fork it. This means the same DEX could open up as something else. This could be an issue if users migrate to the newer application and it is tied to another liquidity pool. That could siphon the transaction volume, and hence the return, away.

With DeFi, there are many different variables to consider, something the traditional financial, TradFi doesn't concern itself with.

This is all part of the process in moving towards decentralization.

How To Calculate Impermanent Loss

Impermanent loss is the opportunity cost that liquidity providers face when they deposit their tokens into a decentralized exchange (DEX) liquidity pool. It occurs when the relative price of the tokens in the pool changes compared to when the liquidity was provided.

The basic formula to calculate impermanent loss is:

Impermanent Loss = PoolValue (USD) / HoldValue (USD) - 1


  • PoolValue (USD) is the current value of the liquidity provider's position in the pool
  • HoldValue (USD) is the value the liquidity provider would have if they had just held the tokens instead of providing liquidity

Here's a step-by-step example of calculating impermanent loss:

  1. Suppose you deposit 10,000 CQT and 100 ETH into a liquidity pool, when the price of CQT is 0.01 ETH per token.
  2. Later, the price of CQT doubles to 0.02 ETH per token outside the pool.
  3. To calculate the impermanent loss:
    • The new price ratio (k) is 0.02 / 0.01 = 2
    • Plugging this into the formula: Impermanent Loss = (PoolValue / HoldValue) - 1 = (1 / √2) - 1 = -5.72%

So in this case, the liquidity provider's position is worth 5.72% less than if they had just held the assets.

The key factors that affect impermanent loss are the magnitude and direction of the price changes of the tokens in the pool. Impermanent loss is minimized when the two tokens move in the same direction at similar rates.

Liquidity providers can use impermanent loss calculators like the ones provided by Whiteboard Crypto, Covalent, CoinStats, and Daily DeFi to estimate the potential loss before providing liquidity.

Ways To Minimize Impermanent Loss

Here are the key ways to minimize impermanent loss when providing liquidity:

  1. Select Less Volatile Token Pairs Providing liquidity for assets with lower price volatility can significantly reduce impermanent loss. Stablecoins paired with other cryptocurrencies or wrapped versions of assets tend to be less volatile.

  2. Diversify Across Multiple Liquidity Pools Spreading your liquidity across different pools can help mitigate the impact of impermanent loss. If one pool experiences significant price changes, the losses may be offset by gains in other, less volatile pools.

  3. Time Your Liquidity Deposits Strategically Depositing liquidity before anticipated price surges in one of the assets can help avoid impermanent loss. Monitoring market conditions and timing your deposits accordingly can be advantageous.

  4. Consider Single-Sided Liquidity Provision Some protocols allow users to provide liquidity in a single asset, rather than a pair. This can eliminate impermanent loss, as the value of the single asset is not affected by price changes between the pair.

  5. Understand Asset Volatility and Its Impact Carefully research the historical price volatility of the assets you're considering providing liquidity for. The more volatile the assets, the greater the potential for impermanent loss.

  6. Offset Impermanent Loss with Trading Fees The trading fees earned from providing liquidity can often offset the impermanent loss incurred. Evaluating the potential fee earnings against the estimated impermanent loss is crucial.

By implementing these strategies, liquidity providers can effectively manage and minimize the impact of impermanent loss, while still benefiting from the rewards of participating in decentralized finance.


Posted Using InLeo Alpha