Lightning is a patch on top of Bitcoin. It’s still the best payment solution out there, no matter what people might claim, but it’s a pain sometimes.

Basically, when you set up a fresh node, you need sats coming in as well as coming out. That’s liquidity.

Note: This is not financial advice. You should consult your accountant or your financial advisor for any decisions you make.

The way routing works, your node will not be chosen by the network to route a lightning payment if it cannot find a proper path. That path needs to be big enough to accommodate the transaction, and also have funds available at the right side of the scale. Think of every lightning channel as a little tube with balls in it. When you open a channel with 10000 sats, you open a tube directly to that other node but there are 10000 balls in a row on your end. You can shoot a payment through, e.g. send 10 sats, sending 10 balls to the other end. That leaves 9990 balls on your end and 10 balls on the opposite end. So after a transaction goes through, you could route an incoming transaction of 10 sats in this example. But no more.

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That’s why you need incoming liquidity, meaning tubes with balls/sats waiting on the opposite end that can move towards you. Here’s an article on Github about various ways to get inbound liquidity on your lightning node https://gist.github.com/bretton/53bc511b6fdafef31951199dd25bbf88

There are several ways you can find inbound liquidity on LN.

1. Wait

If your node is up 24×7 and you have some outgoing channels, the network will connect to you if you simply wait.

However, it might take a couple of weeks to get a significant amount of incoming liquidity, and ideally you want your outgoing liquidity to match too.

So open a few large channels, and simply wait a few weeks.

2. Purchase things or simulate purchasing things with on-chain payouts.

If you open a channel, and spend 50% of the channel capacity on something, perhaps even sending back to your own wallet via a service like

then you could have at least one channel with inbound liquidity, plus the funds to open another channel elsewhere.

Step 1: open a channel to provider
Step 2: create a new deposit address to send bitcoin back to
Step 3: perform LN to onchain swap at provider for 50-80% of the channel capacity which you just opened
Step 4: wait 10-15 mins for your funds to arrive
Step 5: open a new channel to a different provider with the returned funds

This process could be repeated with several parties, including actual purchases of goods and services, and result in several channels with inbound liquidity as long as the channels remain active.

3. Purchase inbound liquidity

The following services will allow you to purchase incoming liquidity to your node:

Yalls

Yalls sells inbound channels

Need an inbound channel? $48.72 USD for 10mm sat

(was $0.45 for 2m sat)

Bitrefill Thor

Thor sells inbound channels

Thor allows you to open private channels with our well-connected Lightning node,
on demand, with custom capacities (300,000 to 16,000,000 sats).

You can pay with any of our supported payment methods: Bitcoin, lightning, your
Coinbase balance, or with any of the 4 other currencies we support!

LNBig

LNBig openchannel service sells inbound channels, first one free

We will open only one channel on you. The one node is the one channel. In next time we will run paid service too for more channels for an one unique node. 

Loop in/out of LN and onchain

Lightning Loop is a non-custodial service offered by Lightning Labs to bridge on-chain and off-chain Bitcoin using submarine swaps.

The service can be used in various situations:

  • Acquiring inbound channel liquidity from arbitrary nodes on the Lightning network
  • Depositing funds to a Bitcoin on-chain address without closing active channels
  • Paying to on-chain fallback addresses in the case of insufficient route liquidity

Author’s note: when time allows a more detailed overview with examples may be provided

Pool

Pool is a non-custodial, peer-to-peer marketplace for Lightning node operators to buy and sell channels.

3rd party examples

4. Open channels with parties who will reciprocate

The following parties will open channels back to you if you open channels to them:

Other documentation

There are other guides on this topic such as:

I also used the Lightning Terminal app on the Raspiblitz to request an incoming channel through the lightning pool. You fund the account with sats, post a request and someone picks it up and opens the channel. It worked, and it’ll last for 3 months as it says on the status. I don’t know if it’s worth it, but it seems there’s a marketplace on there for people who want to tinker with liquidity, and even some profit opportunities.

Don’t forget, you can connect to our own kroisos node right here!

BullionVault

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