Background Most studies on biodegradable magnesium implants published recently use magnesium-calcium-alloys or magnesium-aluminum-rare earth-alloys. However, since rare earths are a mixture of elements and their toxicity is unclear, a reduced content of rare earths is favorable. The present study assesses the in vivo biocompatibility of two new magnesium alloys which have a reduced content (ZEK100) or contain no rare earths at all (AX30). Methods 24 rabbits were randomized into 4 groups (AX30 or ZEK100, 3 or 6 months, respectively) and cylindrical pins were inserted in their tibiae. To assess the biodegradation μCT scans and histological examinations were performed. Results The μCT scans showed that until month three ZEK100 degrades faster than AX30, but this difference is leveled out after 6 months. Histology revealed that both materials induce adverse host reactions and high numbers of osteoclasts in the recipient bone. The mineral apposition rates of both materials groups were high. Conclusions Both alloys display favorable degradation characteristics, but they induce adverse host reactions, namely an osteoclast-driven resorption of bone and a subsequent periosteal formation of new bone. Therefore, the biocompatibility of ZEK100 and AX30 is questionable and further studies, which should focus on the interactions on cellular level, are needed.