Impermanent Loss


Impermanent loss refers to the temporary loss of funds experienced by liquidity providers in a decentralized finance (DeFi) protocol due to volatility in the prices of the tokens in a trading pair. It occurs in automated market maker (AMM) platforms, where assets are locked in a liquidity pool to facilitate trading.

Layman’s Definition:

Imagine you lend your two toys to a friend so they can play together, promising you a small reward in return. If one toy becomes more popular over time, your friend might return a mix of the less popular toy and some reward to balance it out. If you wanted to get your original mix back, you might find it’s worth less than if you’d just kept your toys at home, especially if the popular toy’s value went up a lot. This loss in value, however, could go away if the toys’ popularity levels out again.

Where It Is Used:

Impermanent loss is most commonly encountered in the context of decentralized finance (DeFi), specifically within the automated market makers (AMMs) used by exchanges such as Uniswap, Sushiswap, and Balancer.

Why It Is Used:

While “impermanent loss” sounds like something to avoid, it’s more a byproduct of providing liquidity to AMM pools. Investors accept this risk because they can earn trading fees from the transactions that occur in the pool, which can sometimes offset the loss.

Who Uses It:

Cryptocurrency investors and traders who provide liquidity to AMM pools are the ones who experience impermanent loss. This includes both retail and institutional investors seeking to earn passive income through DeFi platforms.

Who Issues It:

This concept does not have an “issuer,” as it is an inherent risk of participating in AMM-based liquidity pools.

Who Regulates It:

Impermanent loss is not regulated by any single entity. However, the broader DeFi ecosystem operates under the scrutiny of various regulatory bodies depending on jurisdiction, focusing on investor protection and fraud prevention.

Top Usage:

  1. Earning passive income through transaction fees in a liquidity pool.
  2. Participation in yield farming strategies that involve staking tokens in AMM pools.

Pros and Cons:

  • Pros: Potential for high returns through fees and rewards for liquidity providers; increased liquidity and trading efficiency in the DeFi ecosystem.
  • Cons: Risk of losing value compared to simply holding tokens due to price volatility; complexity and understanding required to manage risk effectively.


  1. Uniswap: A liquidity provider adds Ethereum (ETH) and DAI to a pool. If the price of ETH rises significantly compared to DAI, the provider might end up with a higher value of DAI and less ETH when withdrawing, potentially missing out on ETH’s price appreciation.
  2. Balancer: Similar to Uniswap but allows for pools with more than two tokens, where the impermanent loss can be more complex but managed through different pool configurations.

Also Known As:

Temporary loss, divergence loss.

Real-World Analogy:

Consider a fruit stand where you’re allowed to deposit apples and oranges in exchange for a share of the stand’s profits. If apples suddenly become much more valuable than oranges, the proportion of your deposit might shift to have more oranges. If you decide to take your fruits back, you might find the overall value less appealing than if you had just held onto your apples and oranges separately.

Further Information:

  1. DeFi Pulse: Tracks the performance of DeFi assets, including those affected by impermanent loss.
  2. CoinGecko: Provides comprehensive data on cryptocurrencies and DeFi tokens, useful for understanding market dynamics that lead to impermanent loss.
  3. Uniswap Documentation: Offers detailed explanations of how liquidity pools work, including impermanent loss.
  4. Binance Academy: Provides educational content on various cryptocurrency concepts, including impermanent loss.
  5. The Block Research: Offers in-depth analysis and research on the DeFi space, including mechanisms behind impermanent loss.

This page was last updated on February 17, 2024.

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