Staking pools are a collaborative approach to allow many with smaller amounts of ETH to obtain the 32 ETH required to activate a set of validator keys. Pooling functionality is not natively supported within the protocol, so solutions were built out separately to address this need.
Some pools operate using smart contracts, where funds can be deposited to a contract, which trustlessly manages and tracks your stake, and issues you a token that represents this value. Other pools may not involve smart contracts and are instead mediated off-chain.
In addition to the benefits we outlined in our intro to staking, staking with a pool comes with a number of distinct benefits.
Low barrier to entry
Not a whale? No problem. Most staking pools let you stake virtually any amount of ETH by joining forces with other stakers, unlike staking solo which requires 32 ETH.
Staking with a pool is as easy as a token swap. No need to worry about hardware setup and node maintenance. Pools allow you to deposit your ETH which enables node operators to run validators. Rewards are then distributed to contributors minus a fee for node operations.
Many staking pools provide a token that represents a claim on your staked ETH and the rewards it generates. This allows you to make use of your staked ETH, e.g. as collateral in DeFi applications.
Comparison with other options
Pooled staking has a significantly lower barrier to entry when compared to solo staking, but comes with additional risk by delegating all node operations to a third-party, and with a fee. Solo staking gives full sovereignty and control over the choices that go into choosing a staking setup. Stakers never have to hand over their keys, and they earn full rewards without any middlemen taking a cut.Learn more about solo staking
Staking as a service (SaaS)
These are similar in that stakers do not run the validator software themselves, but unlike pooling options, SaaS requires a full 32 ETH deposit to activate a validator. Rewards accumulate to the staker, and usually involve a monthly fee or other stake to use the service. If you'd prefer your own validator keys and are looking to stake at least 32 ETH, using a SaaS provider may be a good option for you.Learn more about staking as a service
Pooled or delegated staking is not natively supported by the Ethereum protocol, but given the demand for users to stake less than 32 ETH a growing number of solutions have been built out to serve this demand.
Each pool and the tools or smart contracts they use have been built out by different teams, and each comes with benefits and risks. Pools enable users to swap their ETH for a token representing staked ETH. The token is useful because it allows users to swap any amount of ETH to an equivalent amount of a yield-bearing token that generates a return from the staking rewards applied to the underlying staked ETH (and vice versa) on decentralized exchanges even though the actual ETH stays staked on the consensus layer. This means swaps back and forth from a yield-bearing staked-ETH product and "raw ETH" is quick, easy and not only available in multiples of 32 ETH.
However, these staked-ETH tokens tend to create cartel-like behaviors where a large amount of staked ETH ends up under the control of a few centralized organizations rather than spread across many independent individuals. This creates conditions for censorship or value extraction. The gold standard for staking should always be individuals running validators on their own hardware whenever possible.
Attribute indicators are used below to signal notable strengths or weaknesses a listed staking pool may have. Use this section as a reference for how we define these attributes while you're choosing a pool to join.
- Open source
- Bug bounty
- Battle tested
- Permissionless nodes
- Execution diversity
- Consensus diversity
- Liquidity token
Essential code is 100% open source and available to the public to fork and use
There are a variety of options available to help you with your setup. Use the above indicators to help guide you through the tools below.
Please note the importance of choosing a service that takes client diversity seriously, as it improves the security of the network, and limits your risk. Services that have evidence of limiting majority client use are indicated with "execution client diversity" and "consensus client diversity."
Have a suggestion for a staking tool we missed? Check out our product listing policy to see if it would be a good fit, and to submit it for review.
- Staking with Rocket Pool - Staking Overview(opens in a new tab) - RocketPool docs
- Staking Ethereum With Lido(opens in a new tab) - Lido help docs