A 5-week feeding trial was conducted in the cleaner fish Ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) for a better understanding of the basic biology of the intestinal functions and health in this stomach less species. During the trial, Ballan wrasse was fed either a reference diet, the reference diet supplemented with (i) a commercial prebiotic (Aquate™ SG, 0·4 %) expected to have beneficial effects, (ii) soya saponins (0·7 %) expected to induce inflammation or (iii) a combination of the prebiotics and the soya saponins to find a remedy for gut inflammation. Blood, intestinal tissue and gut content from four consecutive intestinal segments (IN1 - IN4) were collected. No significant differences in fish growth were observed between the four dietary groups. Saponin supplementation, both alone and in combination with prebiotics, increased weight index of IN2 and IN3 and decreased blood plasma glucose, cholesterol and total protein. Dry matter of intestinal content and activity of digestive enzymes were not affected by diet. Histomorphological analyses revealed a progressing inflammation with increased infiltration by immune cells particularly into the distal parts of the intestine in fish fed diets with saponins, both alone and in combination with prebiotics. Gene expression profiles obtained by RNA sequencing and quantitative PCR mirrored the histological and biochemical changes induced by the saponin load. The study demonstrated that Ballan wrasse gut health and digestive function may be markedly affected by feed ingredients containing antinutrients.