To study the effects of bicarbonate and magnesium on bone, mild acidosis and/or hypermagnesemia were produced in growing rats by feeding ammonium chloride and/or magnesium sulfate. Bone composition, quantitative histomorphometry, and mineral x-ray diffraction (XRD) characteristics were measured after 6 wk of treatment. The results demonstrated that both acidosis (decreased HCO3) and hypermagnesemia inhibited periosteal bone formation, and, when combined, results were summative; and the previously observed in vitro role of HCO3- and Mg2+ as inhibitors of crystal growth were confirmed in vivo. XRD measurements demonstrated that decreased plasma HCO3 resulted in larger crystals and increased Mg resulted in smaller crystals. However, the combined XRD effects of acidosis and hypermagnesemia resembled acidosis alone. It is postulated that the final composition and crystal structure of bone are strongly influenced by HCO3- and Mg2+, and the effects are mediated by the combined influence on both osteoblastic bone formation and the growth of hydroxyapatite.