An experiment was conducted to determine the effect of an essential fatty acid (EFA) deficient diet on growth, immune status and renal morphology of juvenile gilthead sea bream, using two diets: a control diet containing 2% (DW) of n-3 high unsaturated fatty acid (n-3 HUFA) and a diet formulated to be deficient in EFA for this species and containing 0.5% DW of n-3 HUFA (diet NFA). After 9 weeks of feeding the EFA-deficient diet fish showed a reduction in growth compared with the control group (107.48 ± 9.14 and 123.14 ±11.87 g final weight respectively). Fish fed the NFA diet showed a reduction in the erythrocyte volume together with increased erythrocyte fragility, haemoglobin content and red blood cell count in comparison with fish fed the control diet. EFA deficiency also reduced cellular immunity in terms of neutrophil activity and the number of circulating lymphocytes. The serum alternative complement pathway was markedly reduced in fish fed the EFA deficient diet. Fish fed the control diet showed glomeruli with a well-defined Bowman's space and normal renal tubes. However, up to 88% of fish fed the EFA-deficient diet showed alterations in renal morphology affecting at least 50% of the glomeruli, which showed extreme dilation of capillaries and occlusion of Bowsman's capsule. Mesangial proliferation and diffuse thickening of the capillary walls, as well as renal tube degeneration, were also observed.