Bitcoin Dust Horizon

In this time of rising Bitcoin fees, I want to share a concept that is rarely discussed in Bitcoin circle: To give it a name I decided call this concept the “Dust Horizon”.

‘Dust Horizon’ is like a black hole, where UTXOs diminish to a point of no return, their value eclipsed by fees, thus transforming into mere dust in the vast block chain

Before we jump inside the topic we need to clarify a couple of misconceptions:

  • Understanding ‘Dust Horizon’: It’s complex due to Bitcoin’s UTXO-based model, unlike traditional banking’s account model. Your wallet balance is a collection of UTXOs, similar to individual banknotes combined.
  • Bitcoin and Fiat Currencies: Bitcoin is independent of fiat currencies like the US dollar. The market value of Bitcoin doesn’t directly influence transaction fees, debunking a common misconception.
  • Transaction Costs in Bitcoin: Fees depend on the transaction’s size in bytes, not the value transferred. This is why smaller UTXOs, taking up space in a transaction, can become economically impractical, leading to the dust horizon.

The devil behind the balance

The balance displayed in your Bitcoin wallet represents a sum of these ‘digital banknotes.’ For instance, your wallet might show a balance of 0.5 Bitcoin, but this could be composed of various combinations of UTXOs. It could be five UTXOs, each holding 0.1 Bitcoin, or it could be two UTXOs, each with 0.25 Bitcoin. The underlying composition of your balance is an assortment of these distinct UTXOs, each with its own value.

Every time you want to transact with these ‘digital banknotes,’ there’s a fee involved, payable to the miners. This fee is for the space your transaction occupies in the Bitcoin network. And here’s where the challenge arises: if you accumulate too many small UTXOs, it may become cost-prohibitive to spend them. This situation effectively locks these small UTXOs behind a ‘dust horizon,’ akin to how a black hole’s event horizon traps light, thus they become worthless.

The ‘Dust Horizon’ is a moving target, its precise value complicated by dynamically changing fees, which fluctuate based on the backlog of unconfirmed transactions. As Bitcoin usage increases, this threshold may gradually rise and potentially not revert to lower levels. This scenario could potentially lock away significant wealth, potentially turning years of dollar-cost averaging (DCA) investments to mere dust.


The purpose of this blog post isn’t to incite fear. Rather, it’s to cultivate awareness within the Bitcoin community about the ‘Dust Horizon’ and its potential implications. The reason I coined this term is to give a name and clear definition to a phenomenon that could impact the unsuspecting user. It’s important for users to understand this concept to make informed decisions. Additionally, it’s crucial to recognize that merging UTXOs, while a potential workaround, isn’t an ideal solution due to the privacy concerns it introduces.

Further reading:

  1. Counter Argument – Why Are Bitcoin Fees Low?: Explore an alternative perspective on Bitcoin transaction fees in this informative video: Watch on YouTube.
  2. Understanding the Problem: Jameson Lopp discusses the issues surrounding economically unspendable Bitcoin UTXOs in his insightful blog post: Read Jameson Lopp’s Blog.
  3. Clarifying Misconceptions: While tangentially related, don’t confuse the ‘Dust Horizon’ with UTXOs so small that they are considered spam: Bitcoin Stack Exchange Discussion.

1 comment / Add your comment below

  1. An update to this very valid concern might be prudent at this point in time. In the article, you do not directly suggest any actionable steps, you only mention having awareness. While this is a good start, suggesting some uses for bitcoin dust might help others. Personally, I think in some very specific circumstances, it is ok to merge utxo together. There is also the atomic swaps from Samourai that are getting better, with an active telegram group. Finally, there are donations.

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