Your Lightning node starts with zero channels, and you must fund channels with other nodes on the network in order to send Lightning payments. Connecting to nodes that are already well-connected helps ensure that you will be able to find routes and send payments anywhere on the network.
Because payment channels are currently funded only by the initiating party (though dual-funded channels are eventually planned), opening channels only gives you capacity to send, not to receive. To get receiving capacity, you must either open a channel and then spend money through it, or you must convince other nodes to open channels to you. For recommendations on places to spend money on the Lightning Network, see also Lightning Apps and Lightning Stores.
You can also acquire inbound liquidity through exchanges. See our article on Lightning-compatible exchanges.
Some node operators are offering the service of connecting back to other nodes if they meet certain criteria, often requiring them to open a channel first. This page details some of these services that we have tested.
https://singles.shock.network/ is an inbound liquidity request board. We have not tried it, but you can list your node there along with any conditions of opening a return channel and maybe someone will open inbound channels to you.
In order for another node to open a channel to your node, the other node must have a way of contacting your node on the network. There are several ways of accomplishing this:
configuring your node to advertise a public IP address
connecting to the network with Tor, if the other node is also connected to Tor
connecting to another node that does 1 or 2, whether or not you open a channel with that node
If you are using
lnd on the command line, you can connect to a node with
lncli connect <pubkey>@<address>. If your wallet app uses LND under the hood, it may or may not expose this functionality. Try starting to open a channel with the node and then cancelling it before actually sending the transaction.
By filling out the form on this website, this node will immediately open a 2,000,000 satoshi channel to you without conditions—you don't even need to open a channel to them!
Successfully tested on 2019-02-06.
If you open a channel larger than 250,000 satoshis and fill out the form on the website, this node will open a 250,000 satoshi channel back to you.
Successful tested on 2019-02-06.
You must open a channel to their node OR pay a 10,000 satoshi one-time fee to "register".
Will open a channel to your node for a fee of 1% of the channel balance, up to 2,000,000 satoshis.
Successfully tested on 2019-02-15.
If you open a channel larger than 500,000 satoshis and fill out the form on the website, this node will open a channel of the same size back to you.
Requested a channel on 2019-02-06 and had not received a channel by 2019-02-10.
This node's name and large number of channels suggests that it will connect back, but it's unclear what the terms of a reciprocal channel are.
Tested on 2019-02-09. Had not received a channel by 2019-02-15.
These services are NOT TRUSTLESS, so there is nothing technically stopping them from stealing your money. You should only use these if you trust the operator and/or small amounts of money are involved.
Pay a Lightning payment and Y'alls will open a channel back to your node. If your node doesn't appear on the list of node public keys, then Y'alls is not connected to your node (see prerequisites).
This exchange is not trustless, but there are several mitigating factors:
Y'alls will only allow you to pay to attempt to open a channel to nodes that the Y'alls node is already connected to; therefore it's unlikely that Y'alls will not succeed in opening a channel once you have paid for it.
Successfully tested on 2019-02-10. Offer was 18,900 satoshis for a 2,000,000 satoshi channel (0.945%)
Successfully tested on 2019-02-27. Offer was 63,000 satoshis for a 2,000,000 satoshi channel (3.15%)
Pay an LN invoice to receive a BTC payment on-chain, minus transaction fees and a 4,000 satoshi charge. This is useful to instantly convert some of your existing sending capacity into receiving capacity.
Successfully tested on 2019-02-10.
Another service that offers to send you on-chain BTC in exchange for paying a Lightning invoice, thereby converting some of your existing sending capacity into receiving capacity.
We are not sure who is operating this service and we have not tested it.
Coinplaza will accept a lightning BTC payment in exchange for BTC, LTC, ETH, or a dozen other assets.
You must create an account. Does not support US customers.
Successfully tested on 2019-02-10.
ZigZag will accept a lightning BTC payment in exchange for BTC, LTC, or ETH.
The application was not functioning when we tried to test it on 2019-02-10.
Bitrefill Thor is a service that charges high fees to open a channel to your node. The channel is only guaranteed to remain open for 30 days.
Due to high fees, we have not tested this service.
An alternative is to convert your existing channel sending capacity into receiving capacity by buying things that are cash-like on Bitrefill. Options include topping up your Amazon, Chipotle, Uber, or iTunes balance, paying against your Comcast bill, or awarding Reddit Gold.
These nodes have lots of channels funded with lots of bitcoin. Nodes that also host Lightning Network apps and services have a strong incentive to have good uptime and will tend to have larger volumes of inbound payments, so their channels with other nodes will tend to have both sending and receiving capacity. Connect to them and you can route payments through them to large swathes of the Lightning Network graph. See the 1ML list by capacity for other large nodes.
Note that without additional information, it is not possible to know whether a node is actually run by the individual or company that it is named after—anyone can name a node anything. A representative can prove that they control a particular Lightning node by signing a message with the private key that corresponds to the node's public key, e.g. in LND with
lncli signmessage <message>.
Y'alls is a Lightning-powered forum run by Alex Bosworth, an engineer at Lightning Labs.
Bitrefill is a merchant that sells store credit and vouchers, bill payments, gift cards, cell phone minutes, and more for Lightning payments.
Opennode is a custodial Lightning payment processor.
ZigZag is a Shapeshift-like exchange that uses Lightning payments for the Bitcoin side of the exchange.
tippin.me is a custodial Lightning web wallet with Twitter login.
This node is a large-volume and high-uptime Eclair node run by ACINQ, the creators of the Eclair node software. This node is the default connection recommended to Eclair Mobile users. If you are able to establish receiving capacity from this node, you will have a short path to reliably receive payments from many Eclair Mobile users.
Satoshi Labs is the creator of the Trezor hardware wallet. We have not confirmed that this node is actually run by Satoshi Labs.
LNBIG is an unknown entity that has set up dozens of Lightning Network nodes and used dozens of bitcoin to fund thousands of channels across the Lightning Network. You will notice several LNBIG nodes on the list of top capacity nodes. The owner of LNBIG, as verified by a messaged signed by an LNBIG node key, sometimes posts messages in the Y'alls forum. Because LNBIG doesn't offer any services, its channels tend to all be outgoing and unbalanced. Whether you want to connect to this entity is up to you—they cannot steal Bitcoin in your Lightning channels, but their identity and intentions are unknown and they are a source of centralization in the Lightning Network.