Seaweed extracts (SWE) rich in laminarin and fucoidan have shown promise as a supplement for weaned piglets. However, successful application in pig nutrition depends on their bioactivity in the presence of additives such as ZnO. In the present study, a 2 × 2 factorial experiment was carried out to investigate the effect of the interaction between SWE and ZnO on the growth performance, digestibility and faecal characteristics of 192 weaned piglets (6·5 kg). The piglets were penned in groups of 4 (n 12 pens). The study consisted of two phases after weaning: a starter diet period from the day of weaning (0 d) to 21 d and a transition diet period from 21 to 40 d. The dietary treatments were as follows: (1) control diet; (2) control diet+ZnO; (3) control diet+SWE; (4) control diet+ZnO+SWE. Diets containing ZnO improved the faecal consistency of the piglets throughout the experimental period (0–40 d). An effect of the interaction between ZnO and SWE on several variable was observed. The diet containing only SWE or ZnO improved the feed conversion efficiency of the piglets during the transition diet period; however, this effect was not observed when the diet containing both ZnO and SWE was fed. The diet containing only SWE increased the N and organic matter digestibility of the piglets; however, this effect was not observed in the presence of ZnO. An interaction between ZnO and SWE was observed, whereby the faecal counts of Escherichia coli were decreased when piglets were fed the diet containing only SWE, but not when fed the diet containing both SWE and ZnO. In summary, SWE and ZnO improve growth performance when given alone, but not when given in combination. The biological effect of SWE on selected digestibility and faecal characteristics was markedly different when compared with that of ZnO.