ZCash (ZEC) has quickly become one of the top privacy coins since being introduced in 2016, and if you want to get some for yourself there are two options:

  1. Buy ZCash
  2. Mine ZCash

Personally I prefer the mining option because it feels like free coins (even though it isn’t at all). ZCash is a Proof-of-Work cryptocurrency, so every transaction is verified and bundled into a block by miners, who then collect a reward for performing this necessary function for the blockchain.

The most famous Proof-of-Work crpytocurrency is Bitcoin, and he creation of ZCash was actually inspired by Bitcoin. So, ZCash was developed using the same core software used in Bitcoin, however some changes were made to ensure maximum privacy for the users of the coin.

One of these changes was in the consensus algorithm. Where Bitcoin uses the SHA-256 algorithm, ZCash decided to go with the Equihash algorithm. The major change in ZCash however is the ability for users to remain anonymous when using ZCash.

I’m assuming you’re already familiar with the mining process, and today I want to discuss using ZCash mining pools. These mining pools have become increasingly important for many home miners due to the rise of ASIC chips that can be used with the Equihash algorithm. Let’s get to some basics about mining and pools.

The Basics of ZCash Mining Pools

Mining pools exist for any cryptocurrency that uses proof-of-work as a consensus mechanism, and ZCash is no different. The mining pools are platforms that allow individual miners to come together and pool their hashing power to help increase the chances of finding blocks and receiving mining rewards. This also lowers the risk for miners as it gives them more regular payouts.

One commonality between almost all mining pools is that they all charge a small fee for providing the pool service. These fees are in place to help the pool owner pay for the servers and bandwidth necessary to run the pool. Fees can differ from pool to pool and even from cryptocurrency to cryptocurrency, and finding a low fee pool can help maximize mining profits.

Zcash Mining Basics
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ZCash can also be mined, and until recently it was possible to mine ZCash at home with nothing more than the CPU or GPU in your personal computer or laptop. That all changed in February 2018, when Bitmain announced that they had developed an ASIC chip capable of mining Equihash algorithm cryptocurrencies.

These ASIC chips are very powerful, and they increase the difficulty of finding blocks for all other miners, especially those using less powerful CPUs and GPUs.

So, for most of us who don’t have an ASIC rig to mine with, the best chance to get some ZCash is to join a mining pool.

This is likely to remain true for some time also, as the ZCash Foundation isn’t being quick to fork ZCash to make it ASIC resistant again in the way that Monero did when Bitmain developed an ASIC chip for the Cryptonight algorithm. They have said they will research the impact of ASIC chips on mining, but their initial position is that accepting the ASIC chips might be the better long term strategy. You can read more regarding their reasoning here.

If you’re a home miner a pool is a great resource since it allows you to get a continual supply of small mining rewards. Basically, pools aggregate the resources of all the members, and anytime the pool finds a block the rewards are split between members based on their contribution to the hash power of the pool. This means small rewards, but because of the pooled resources the pool is far more likely to find blocks versus solo mining.

What to Look for in a ZCash Pool

The features you want to look for in a good ZCash pool are similar to those of any other cryptocurrency pool. First of all you need to find a trustworthy pool. The pool is paying you based on your contribution to their hash power, and you have to trust that they are being honest about their calculations. When it comes to ZCash there are several pools that have been operating almost since ZCash was created, and they are trusted by the ZCash community.

The next thing to look at are the fees. Lower fees mean higher payouts for you. Fortunately most pools have very similar fees, so this shouldn’t be too big of a chore to find a pool with a reasonable fee.

You also need to look at the location of the pool servers. A Chinese pool won’t be much good to you if you aren’t located in China. The same goes for any other location. You need to find a pool that has servers relatively close to your location to maximize your hash power in the network.

One final thing you want to look at is how much of the total hashing power does the pool control. While it might be tempting to simply go with the largest pool, that isn’t always a good idea as it could lead to the pool controlling 51% or more of the network hashing power.

In fact, this very thing happened back in November 2017, when Flypool controlled more than 51% of the network hashing power. They didn’t perform a double spending attack, but they could have, and this type of centralization in Proof-of-Work cryptocurrencies needs to be avoided. So, sometimes it’s better to simply choose a smaller mining pool to increase the decentralization of the network.

The Best ZCash Mining Pools for 2018

Best is a subjective term. What’s best for me might not be best for you. Obviously geography will play a part in choosing the best pool for you. Your feeling on creating decentralization might contribute to your choice of a best ZCash mining pool as well. With that in mind, here are my 4 best choices for ZCash mining pools.

FlyPool

Flypool is still the largest ZCash mining pool and one of the most popular among ZCash miners. First off, Flypool charges a 1% mining fee, but also comes with a host of features that make it attractive. These include servers located in the U.S., Europe and Asia as well as anonymous mining using just a wallet address.

Flypool ZEC Mining Pool Statistics
Flypool ZEC Pool Statistics

The current hash rate for July 2018 is 169 MH/s and Flypool has detailed and accurate hash rate reporting. You can customize your minimum payout and take advantage of the instant payout feature at Flypool. Payouts are via a real-time PPLNS (Pay Per Last N Shares) method. And for the more advanced among you it has full Stratum support.

NanoPool

NanoPool is another popular ZCash mining pool, and based on user reviews the payouts here are very similar to those from Flypool. Servers are located in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Japan and Australia.

Nanopool ZCash Hashing Statistics
Nanopool ZCash Hashing Statistics

NanoPool offers other coins in addition to ZCash, but as far as ZCash is concerned it has more than 11,000 miners and 21,000 workers with a hash rate of 36 MH/s. The pool fee at NanoPool is 1% just like at Flypool and the default minimum payout is a low 0.01 ZEC. It supports anonymous mining, but only with public (t) addresses and makes payouts several times a day. Stratum is also fully supported at NanoPool.

MiningPoolHub

MiningPoolHub is a recent addition to the popular ZCash mining pools having come online in February 2018. In addition to ZCash it also supports mining of 34 other cryptocurrencies, and has an auto-switching feature that will allow your mining to switch between the most profitable coins for the algorithm you choose.

MiningPoolHub Stats for ZEC Pool
MiningPoolHub Stats for ZEC Pool

MiningPoolHub has servers in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and currently has a total hash rate of 21.8 MH/s. The pool fee at MiningPoolHub is slightly lower than other pools at just 0.9%, which is a benefit. You are also able to automatically convert your mined coins to a different coin for withdrawal. Payments are made via the PPLNS(Pay Per Last N Shares) system.

Suprnova

Suprnova  is another fairly new ZCash pool, although they do offer pools for other coins for some time. The hash rate is just 5.8 MH/s, but that’s enough for the pool to regularly find blocks. You can mine anonymously, and the pool uses the familiar PPLNS payment system.

ZEC Mining Pools at Suprnova
ZEC Mining Pools at Suprnova

There are servers located in the U.S., Europe and Asia, with the newest server in Shenzhen China. Like most other pools the fee is 1% when mining at Suprnova.

Conclusion

As you can see, the largest ZCash mining pools are very similar, offering anonymous mining, PPLNS payment systems, servers in each major geographical area, and 1% fees for the most part. For the best fee you would want to choose MiningPoolHub, but for the best geographical server coverage Nanopool seems superior.

While Flypool is the largest pool with the greatest hash power, that doesn’t make it better. In fact, at this time it would be best to choose one of the smaller pools to help promote decentralization of the network. Perhaps MiningPoolHub since it allows you to automatically switch to the most profitable coin at any given time.

Featured Image via Fotolia

Posted by Steve Walters

Steve has been writing for the financial markets for the past 7 years and during that time has developed a growing passion for cryptocurrencies.