Total Value Locked (TVL): Everything to Know

By  Beluga Research September 13, 2023

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  • Total value locked (TVL) is the total amount of cryptocurrency assets staked or deposited in a decentralized finance (DeFi) protocol
  • This is a crucial metric for assessing the success and popularity of DeFi protocols
  • TVL measures the value of assets locked within DeFi protocols, indicating user trust and confidence
  • Increasing TVL can positively impact the price performance of a protocol's native token, signaling growing demand and adoption


Total value locked (TVL) is the total amount of cryptocurrency assets staked or deposited in a decentralized finance (DeFi) protocol. TVL reflects the combined value of cryptocurrencies or assets that users have deposited into smart contracts, liquidity pools or lending platforms.

TVL is an essential gauge of a DeFi platform's success and security, as a higher TVL typically indicates greater user trust and adoption. TVL is often tracked to monitor the health and growth of DeFi projects and is a key metric for investors and users to assess the platform's stability and potential returns.

A Brief History

TVL gained prominence in mid-2020, during the surge in popularity of the DeFi sector. As DeFi protocols gained traction, the need for a standardized metric to measure growth became evident. TVL emerged as a simple yet effective measure to track the value of assets locked within these protocols.

Initially, TVL was primarily associated with lending and borrowing platforms like Compound and Aave. These platforms allowed users to deposit assets as collateral to borrow other cryptocurrencies. The TVL metric provided an indication of the capital locked within these lending protocols, reflecting user activity and confidence.

TVL: Everything to Know

  • TVL Calculation - Calculating TVL involves aggregating the total value of assets held within a specific DeFi protocol. This includes the value of cryptocurrency deposits, loans, liquidity provided to decentralized exchanges and other assets locked within the protocol. The value of these assets is determined based on prevailing market prices.
  • TVL as a Measure of Success - TVL is a critical metric for assessing the success and popularity of a DeFi protocol. A higher TVL indicates more capital locked within the platform, showcasing user trust and confidence. Growing TVL signifies increased adoption and usage, attracting more users and liquidity.
  • TVL and Risk Assessment - Although TVL is valuable, it does not provide a comprehensive picture of a protocol's risk profile. A high TVL does not guarantee a risk-free platform. Smart contract vulnerabilities, security audits and protocol robustness must also be considered when evaluating the safety of a DeFi platform.
  • TVL and Yield Farming - "Yield farming," also known as "liquidity mining," allows users to earn rewards by providing liquidity to decentralized exchanges or lending platforms. TVL plays a crucial role in yield farming as it reflects the total liquidity available for users to farm rewards. Higher TVL in a yield farming protocol indicates more opportunities for users to earn rewards.
  • TVL and Token Price Performanc e - TVL can impact the price performance of a protocol's native token. Increasing TVL signals growing demand and adoption, positively influencing a token's value. Conversely, a decline in TVL raises concerns about the platform's viability, potentially impacting the token's price negatively.

Getting Started

To understand TVL, it is important to understand the concept of "DeFi." DeFi refers to financial applications and protocols built on blockchain networks, primarily Ethereum but also other blockchains. These platforms aim to recreate traditional financial services such as lending, borrowing, trading and asset management in a decentralized manner. DeFi eliminates intermediaries by leveraging smart contracts and blockchain technology.

TVL represents the total value of assets locked within DeFi protocols. Assets can include cryptocurrencies like ether (ETH), stablecoins like tether (USDT) or other tokenized forms of value. Users lock assets as collateral or contribute liquidity to decentralized exchanges and pools. TVL quantifies the cumulative value of these locked assets, measuring economic activity within DeFi.

Unique Aspects

TVL has unique aspects making it an important metric. Firstly, it gauges the size and growth of the DeFi market. As more users and capital flow into DeFi, TVL increases, indicating the expanding adoption of decentralized finance and the potential to disrupt traditional systems.

Moreover, TVL offers insights into the popularity and usage of specific DeFi protocols. Higher TVL indicates greater confidence and trust in a platform. Projects with substantial TVL are seen as more established and reliable, attracting more users and liquidity. Investors and developers monitor TVL to measure protocol success and user engagement.

Furthermore, TVL assesses the liquidity and depth of decentralized exchanges (DEX). Deeper liquidity enhances market efficiency and reduces slippage. A DEX with higher TVL offers competitive pricing, attracting traders and investors seeking optimal trade execution.

Additionally, TVL can indicate potential risks associated with DeFi platforms. High TVL means more assets are at stake if a protocol experiences a security breach or smart contract vulnerability. Users must consider security measures, audits and track records of DeFi protocols before locking significant amounts of assets.


  • Transparency - TVL offers transparency by allowing anyone to view the total value of assets locked in various DeFi protocols. This transparency helps users assess the popularity and trustworthiness of different platforms.
  • Accessibility - The use of TVL provides a snapshot of the overall accessibility of DeFi protocols, showcasing how easily users can lock assets and participate in decentralized financial activities. This accessibility is appealing to individuals without access to traditional financial services.
  • Yield Opportunities - TVL enables users to discover and capitalize on yield opportunities. By monitoring the TVL of different protocols, users can identify platforms that offer attractive returns on locked assets, such as lending or liquidity provision.
  • Diversification - Users can diversify cryptocurrency holdings across different DeFi protocols with TVL. This mitigates risks associated with individual platforms and enhances the overall stability of users' crypto portfolios.
  • Community Governance - TVL often determines the governance power of users within decentralized protocols. Voting power is proportional to the amount of assets locked in the ecosystem. This incentivizes users to lock more assets, increasing the TVL and strengthening the decentralized governance of the protocol.


  • Volatility - The value of assets locked in DeFi protocols can be highly volatile due to the nature of cryptocurrencies. Fluctuations in locked asset prices can rapidly change TVL, affecting the stability and reliability of the protocol.
  • Smart Contract Risk - DeFi protocols rely on smart contracts to facilitate transactions and manage locked assets. However, smart contracts are susceptible to vulnerabilities and bugs. Compromised smart contracts can lead to the loss of locked assets and negatively impact the TVL of the protocol.
  • Regulatory Uncertainty - The regulatory landscape for cryptocurrencies and DeFi is still evolving, and uncertainty in regulations creates risks for platforms and users. Changes in regulations may impact the TVL of DeFi protocols as participants may become cautious or withdraw assets to comply with new rules.
  • Impermanent Loss - Liquidity provision in DeFi protocols exposes users to impermanent loss. It occurs when the value of assets in the pool changes relative to holding them outside the pool, reducing the overall asset value and affecting the TVL of the protocol.
  • Centralization Risks - While DeFi aims to be decentralized, certain protocols may face centralization risks. The concentration of assets held by a few participants can lead to centralization, reducing overall decentralization and potentially impacting the TVL of the protocol.