Streptococcus agalactiae (S. agalactiae) is a gram-positive pathogen that causes a wide range of infections in fish and other animals including humans. Bacterial ghosts (BGs) are nonliving, empty cell envelopes and are well represented as novel vaccine candidates. In this study, we examined the immunogenicity and protective efficacy of S. agalactiae ghosts (SAG) against a virulent challenge in tilapia. Nonliving SAG was generated by a culture with Penicillin and Streptolysin, and then treated with the MIC of sodium hydroxide. The formation of a transmembrane lysis tunnel structure in SAG was visualized by electron microscopy. To investigate the SAG as a vaccine candidate, fish were divided into three groups, A (SAG immunized), B [Formalin-inactivated S. agalactiae (FSA) immunized] and C (phosphate-buffered saline, PBS-immunized control). The IgM antibody responses were significantly stronger in the SAG-immunized group than in FSA-immunized group, which was higher than in the non-immunized control group (P < 0.05). Moreover, phagocytic activity (percent phagocytes, PP) was significantly higher (p < 0.05) in the SAG-immunized group than in FSA-immunized group, which was higher than in the non-immunized control group (P < 0.05). In addition, non-specific immune immunity, such as lysozyme and superoxide dismutase activities, in the SAG-immunized fish showed significantly higher activities than FSA-immunized fish and the control group fish (P < 0.05). Also, fish immunized with SAG and FSA showed significantly higher (p < 0.05) gene expression of IL-1β, TNF-α, IFN-γ and TGF-β in the head kidney and spleen than fish treated with PBS during the whole observed period. In addition, fish immunized with SAG showed significantly higher gene expression of L-1β, TNF-α, and TGF-β in the spleen than in the FSA-immunized fish. Although there was no significant (P > 0.05) difference of survival rate (SR) or relative percent survival (RPS) between SAG and FSA immunized groups, they were all significantly more protected against the S. agalactiae challenge (SR: 86.67%, RPS: 76.395) and (SR: 80.00%, RPS: 67.50%) respectively, compared to the PBS-treated group (SR: 33.33%). These results suggest that immunization with SAG induces immune responses and provides protection against a virulent S. agalactiae challenge. Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier Ltd.